Identity in Communities and Networks Uncategorized

Identity and An Assumption of Trust in Online Auction Sites


This paper will argue there is an assumption of trust in online communities such as eBay and that deception by members threatens to damage that trust. Trust is essential for building strong relationships and establishing credibility. An authentic identity helps establish that credibility. Deception threatens the stability of online auction sites, their members and their reputations. This can then have a negative effect on future sales and transactions with others. The studies that were researched during the course of this paper discussed the importance of trust and authentic self-representation when communicating or exchanging goods in online marketplaces such as eBay.

In this paper, I will discuss the importance of trust and identity and the fundamental role they play in online communities such as eBay. I will demonstrate that trust is an essential part of every human interaction and that the use of deception when it comes to identity threatens to destroy that trust. I will discuss how trust and identity work together within an online marketplace where the sale of new and used products is facilitated with little to no face-to-face interaction within a virtual community. I will demonstrate how trust in identity strengthens relationships between buyers and sellers. I will produce substantiating evidence that trust and authentic identity are vital for establishing strong relationships within online communities such as eBay. I will show how they help establish credibility and build solid reputations in online communities such as eBay and how when it comes to identity there is an assumption of trust. Particularly in this type of relationship because people within online communities not only exchange goods they also exchange personal information. It is this information that assists in establishing identity and it is an authentic presentation of self that forms the base for which lasting relationships are developed. When sellers provide information it is assumed to be accurate and true. The buyer then assumes the information they have been provided is also authentic. It is for this reason trust plays a pivotal role in online communities. Information provided about our identity is important not only because it is unique but because identity establishes who we really are. All online communities are based on information and it is this information that makes people identifiable to others. There are some who may ask why so much emphasis should be placed on authentic identity and the assumption of trust. The answer is authentic identity initiates trust, creates credibility and establishes a solid base for relationships to grow. Therefore the ability to continue developing strong relationships relies heavily on trust. When deception is revealed, irreparable damage can be done to the credibility of online communities and to the reputations of its members. Reputation of members on online auction sites such as eBay is fundamental to the success of the communities.

  • The importance of trust.
  • Anonymity and identity.
  • Deception, credibility and reputations.

For the first part of this paper, I am going to focus on the importance of trust and the role it plays in online auction sites such as eBay. How trust is an essential part of every human relationship and the success of those relationships is dependent on trust. According to Mezgar (2016) trust plays a central role in all human contact and when exchanging goods in an online marketplace it is no different. In online communities such as eBay trust helps maintain good customer service. When it comes to behaviour, there is an expectation of honesty whenever goods are bought and sold, according to Ridings and Gefen (2005). This also applies to individuals who are not known to each other, often the case when exchanging goods online. How an individual conducts themselves when exchanging goods online assists in establishing trust because the disclosure of personal information has a positive effect as opposed to information being withheld which has a negative effect (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). Trust will develop much easier in a relationship when there is mutual respect and the formation of close personal bonds which often comes as a result of liking one another. Successful personal interactions based on trust help promote a sense of community. Being part of a community brings with it a feeling of belonging (Delanty, 2018). It is this sense of belonging within a community that may be a way to enforce positive behaviour (Ridings & Gefen, 2005). The positive affirmation of trust helps create confidence in ourselves and each other, while the ability to trust makes us feel secure in the decisions we make (Mezgar, 2016). Loss of trust makes us doubt ourselves and question our ability to accurately judge others. When it comes to buyers and sellers exchanging information in online auction sites, a person’s true identity is the key to a successful relationship according to Donath (1995). This is because a certain amount of trust is required when purchasing goods in an online marketplace. Studies have shown that if people do not have trust in a service they will not use it (Mezgar, 2016). A successful sale is based on information provided by the seller and which the buyer believes to be truthful and honest. This is supported by Schwämmlein and Wodzicki (2012) who declare that the presentation of an authentic self forms the basis of a strong and long lasting relationship. Communicating an authentic self is important because it not only establishes trust between members it is vital in the success of an online community such as eBay.

Here I will discuss anonymity and identity and how misleading information can affect online auction sites such as eBay. Identity is the tool used to identify ourselves to others and is how trust is gained. When it comes to exchanging goods online, providing false or misleading information about identity can negatively affect the ability to trust. According to Mezgar (2016) whenever trust is placed in someone it is an indication of confidence that information that has been provided is reliable. Alternatively, establishing identity over a period of time can also have a positive effect on the ability to trust, providing that information is authentic. The reason for this is that having an established identity is critical when deciphering valuable information and deciding what is truthful and what is not (Talboom & Pierson, 2013). In online communities such as eBay nothing is more important than the ability to trust and that the information provided is accurate and trustworthy. This is especially important when transferring money into bank accounts of an individual whose identity has only been established through online interactions. The use of anonymity creates problems when it comes to the exchanging of information, how a relationship progresses and in the decisions that are made (Wang, 2018). Individuality is lost when people become anonymous and this can have an effect on a person’s demeanour. Faceless online communication can result in a lack of personal accountability which according to Donath (1995) results in behavior that is dangerous and irresponsible. Hiding behind anonymity masks true identity and this type of misleading information can bring about behavior that is unacceptable and anti-social (Wang, 2018). At other times an identity has been manufactured or altered. This deliberate act of deception then threatens the stability of newly formed relationships. It can also threaten the credibility of buyers and sellers in online communities such as eBay. This not only highlights the necessity for establishing trust but how important feeling part of an online community is. This is because “members who have an investment in something within a community are far less likely to blow that investment through inappropriate, negative behaviour” (Grohol, 2006). While conducting research on anonymity, I came across an interesting statement from Donath (1995, p. 2) in which she states “an anonymous community is an oxymoron”. While I agree that an anonymous community is an oxymoron, I do not believe it is the community that is anonymous but the members within that community. The success of an online community relies on openness and truthfulness if it is to grow and attract new members in the future. The use of deception by members to hide or alter their identity can impair how they trade in the future. The success of on online community such as eBay depends on the honesty of its members. When buyers rely on the reputations of the seller and of the relationship they have established the use of deception will have a devastating effect on credibility if it is used when communicating identity to others.

Finally, the paper examines the use of deception in an online auction community and auction site such as eBay and the harmful effect it can have on reputations. Deception is a deliberate and malicious act carried out by individuals who lack morals and refuse to abide by a code of ethics. The use of deception, in online communities such as eBay, damages trust and creates uncertainty. According to Resnick and Zeckhauser (2001) it may only take a few minutes for a bad experience to take place but those few minutes have the potential to spread across the globe to an untold amount of people which could undoubtedly have an enormous impact on all future trade. Another way deception can be used is considered to be a means to an end. Where the use of whatever means someone considers appropriate in order to achieve something they desire (Schwämmlein & Wodzicki, 2012). This will not become a problem until the deception is exposed and reputations are damaged. One such system where this can occur is eBay. Resnick and Zeckhauser (2001, p. 1) claim that “that one of the earliest and best-known Internet reputation systems is run by eBay”. This only helps to highlight the importance of honesty when exchanging goods online. Uncovering deception in online communities such as eBay often results in an account being suspended or permanently closed, meaning they are no longer permitted to trade. I would like to add here that deception can come in a variety of different ways. It can be altering or leaving out specific details or creating inaccurate information. However, when it comes to identity caption can take many other forms and one of those forms is the impersonation of others. The use of deception when it comes to impersonating others can have a devastating effect on credibility and reputations. This only helps to demonstrate that truth and honesty in online communities helps establish a level of trust and create solid relationships. Of course, the best way trust can be established is through experience and a history of truthful and honest interactions and exchanges between members (Talboom & Pierson, 2013). While conducting research for this presentation, I encountered critics who argued that being truthful about identity in online communities is not possible because the internet was a community void of ethics (Delanty, 2018). While I agree that a lack of morals and unethical behaviour does occur, it does not mean the whole community lacks ethics and will act inappropriately. This type of label should not be applied to a community where the majority of its members are conducting themselves within the constraint of community rules of operation. This is where the feedback from members is important as it gives both buyers and sellers credibility which helps to establish solid reputations (Resnick & Zeckhauser, 2001). The success of future transactions in online communities such as eBay relies heavily on the ability to trust. Deception will have the opposite effect and an place that future success in jeopardy. However, once trust has been established, it will be an indication to others that they are reliable and trustworthy which in turn builds a rock-solid reputation within that online community.

In concluding, truth and identity do matter in online communities and particularly auction sites such as eBay because in every human interaction there is some level of trust. The ability to trust is important as it provides the confidence needed to trust in ourselves which helps form the basis of a strong online community. To be successful the members of these online communities rely on attaining and maintaining good reputations. Gaining a good reputation can only be achieved by previous transactions in which trust has been demonstrated and that credibility is valid. Within online communities such as eBay, a lack of truth and honesty will have a negative impact upon good standing which could negatively influence a person’s decision when it comes to deciding to purchase goods elsewhere. Digital deceit is faceless, genderless and deliberate. In an online community and online auction site such as eBay, deception damages trust, ruins credibility and destroys reputations. It also helps create a level of uncertainty and at times can make people second guess themselves and each other. When people are deceived they can be left with a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal is traumatic and personal, which makes the rebuilding of trust a difficult one. When trust is important to us and something we highly value, it can be difficult to understand why everyone else does not feel and act the same way we do. There is no place for deception or anonymity in online communities and online auction sites. Online communities such as eBay operate under an assumption of trust. The intentional use of deception only serves to damages that trust.                                                                                                                                                                                   


Delanty, G. (2018). Virtual community: Belonging as communication (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Donath, J.S. (1996, August 4). Identity and deception in the virtual community [Paper presentation].  MIT Media Lab. Retrieved from

Grohol, J.M. (2006, April 4). Anonymity and online community: Identity matters. Community, Usability. Retrieved from

Mezgar, I. (2016, March 26). Trust building in virtual communities [Paper presentation]. Computer and Automation Research Institute, Hungarian Academy of Science, Budapest, Hungary. https://doi.10.1007/978-3-642-04568-4_41

Resnick, P. & Zeckhauser, R. (2001). Trust among strangers in internet transactions: Empirical analysis of eBay’s reputation system. Retrieved from

Ridings, C.M. & Gefen, D. (2005, January). Antecedents of trust in online communities [Paper presentation]. Category: IT Security & Ethics. Retrieved from file:///E:/Social%20Media%20Communties%20and%20Networks/Antecedents_of_Trust_in_Online_Communities.pdf

Schwämmlein, E. & Wodzicki, K. (2012). What to tell about me? Self-presentation in online communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17, 387-404. https://doi:10.111/j.1083-6101.2012.01582.x

Talboom, S. & Pierson, J. (2013). Understanding trust within online discussion boards: Trust formation in the absence of reputation systems. 7th Trust Management (TM). Retrieved from file:///E:/Social%20Media%20Communties%20and%20Networks/Assessment%201/Understanding%20Trust%20in%20Online%20Discussion%20Boards.pdf

Wang, Z.M. (2018) Anonymity effects and implications in the virtual environment: From crowd to computer-mediated communication. Social Networking, 7, 45-62.

24 replies on “Identity and An Assumption of Trust in Online Auction Sites”

Hey Tracey,
Thought-provoking topic you have there! The word eBay really got my attention. I always look for that 99% positive user feedback, if it’s too low, I won’t buy from the seller.
It reminds me of an experience my aunty had on eBay when I was younger. She bought a pair of shoes that displayed the sides and not the front. When she received them, they were dirty on one side and clean on the side that was exposed to the camera. Just a bit of implicit deception
It would have been nice to have titles for the paragraphs to split up the section, but I understand if you didn’t do it because of word count (because SAME).
I liked how you illustrated that “Individuality is lost when people become anonymous and this can have an effect on a person’s demeanour. Faceless online communication can result in a lack of personal accountability” and also backed it up with a number of sources. You wrote really well in this paper!
Do you think there are any really evident ways eBay can make selling and buying more reputable?

Evening Anne-Marie

Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. I agree with you that sub-headings would have been good to break up the sections but unfortunately I read a comment from one of my tutors that we should not use them as the word count was already low. The story of your aunty being deceived when buying shoes off eBay is only one of thousands I would imagine and I am sure that it happens much more than we hear about. I find it astounding the lengths some people will go to just to make money. They obviously must not have a conscience otherwise how else would they be able to live with themselves. I have been deceived twice on eBay hence my topic choice. About 12 years ago my husband and I were looking to buy an old Holden. The first car we looked at was in Queensland, we are in Western Australia. It was a HK Holden and I cannot seem to quite remember how much it was but it was reasonable as there were not many of that make and model originally made. However, as the hours and days went by things just didn’t seem to be adding up and we kind of felt that something was not quite right, so we pulled out of the auction. We ended up buying a HG Monaro a few weeks later and paid $32,000 at auction for it. We were only going to go up to $30,000 but my husband’s mate offered us another $2,000 and we had the winning bid. We had to travel to Sydney to finalise the deal, but that is another story in itself. Have you seen the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles? That sums up our trip in four words.

The second time I was duped, I was bidding on a painting which I picked up extremely cheap. I won the auction paid my money and the next thing I see a notification saying money refunded auction cancelled or words similar. This is something people are not allowed to do. I contacted eBay and the seller was reprimanded, however I do not know what their penalty was. I have bought a lot of things on eBay and have only been duped twice and did not lose any money I would therefore have to conclude that my assumption of trust has not been damaged.

As for your question as to whether there are any other means for making buying and selling online more reputable my answer would have to be no not really. Of course there is the traditional way of writing an online review but so many people do not actually take the time to read those anyway which only goes to prove that the assumption of trust is important and is the reason I chose to write about it.

Regards, Tracey

Hey Tracey!
No totally fine – I understand why you didn’t use them then.  Thanks for clarifying!
Good work on trusting your gut, I always find it’s better to trust it than go through with it. I personally would be so nervous to use eBay to purchase a car, I felt a lot better using to find my current car. It also reminds me of that scene in the Office where Michael Scott tries to sell his house on eBay. It’s interesting to think of how times have changed in regards to online auction sites with the rise of the Internet!
I’m personally very careful with my money so I do a lot of research into sites and products before buying them online. However, if the cost is cheap I will just throw it into the void e.g. the popular discount site Wish. I actually bought my wedding veil off there for $8 – I ordered two cheap veils and the first one didn’t work but the second one was perfect for $3! (Wedding veils usually retail for at least $90) I didn’t know if it would work or be nice but I figured it was just $8. However, with my wedding dress, again I ordered that off a cheap Asian site but I put in hours of research of dress reviews, photo reviews, video reviews, and exploring the site. It was roughly $400 for my dress and it was perfect! It would be interesting to see how the assumption of trust changes in regards to the amount of money spent or the quality of the website. Would you agree with this?
I think the reputable nature of the website and their customer service would also affect the trust – as you knew eBay would most likely get your money back for the painting incident. If it’s something slightly dodgy, you may not hear anything ever.

Evening Anne-Marie
I am so happy that your wedding dress and veil were exactly what you wanted. Last year where I work held a black tie event and I was so hesitant to purchase a dress online. In the end I picked one up from City Chic 1 week before the event. It was a reasonable price and although I do say so myself I scrubbed up pretty well. However, my friend at work purchased her dress online and it was a disaster. It looked awful and her family had to tell her the truth otherwise she would have worn it and they couldn’t let her do that.

I really like your point that the cost of an item reflects on how much trust is placed in the seller. I had not thought of it like that and I totally agree that it would. I know that it does for me. However, I do believe that the level of trust also depends on how many times you have been burnt, regardless of how much money was spent. Would you agree? Thanks for your comments.

Regards, Tracey

Hi Tracey!
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Definitely lots to learn!
I would have to agree – I was scammed a few years ago (thankfully only $10 or so) and I used paypal to complete the transaction. PayPal is amazing – they are so focused on making sure they’re as safe as possible so they were able to get my money back. Because of this, whenever I’m not sure about a seller and they offer PayPal, I’m more likely to use PayPal rather than give up. This relates to your Mezgar, 2016 source where you write someone has to trust something in order to use it.
Would you say the same thing relates to charities online? I don’t trust that the charity will get my full donation so I’m less likely to donate to charity online (e.g. Facebook fundraisers for charity) and more likely to donate in person.


Hi Tracey,

Like AnneMarie I also chose to read your paper as it used EBay as the case study. It is one that I have used in the past (and Gumtree) because I like the way that other people can rate their experience with buying from that particular person and so an element of trust has already been forged (or not if it’s a bad review) – which might not always be accurate depending on that other person’s experience but at least it is something to base that initial impression upon. A point that you make with your quote, “This is where the feedback from members is important as it gives both buyers and sellers credibility which helps to establish solid reputations (Resnick & Zeckhauser, 2001)”. Though have to say I rarely use EBay now preferring Gumtree because in the instances when I have bought something the money transaction is F2F.

I liked this statement in particular ” Deception is a deliberate and malicious act carried out by individuals who lack morals and refuse to abide by a code of ethics”. Abiding by a code of morals and ethics are part of what constitutes belonging to a community but unfortunately it seems are more easy to manipulate in online interactions.

Thanks Tracey, I enjoyed reading your paper – it highlighted well the importance of establishing identity and authenticity in order to gain trust and the consequences of that trust if misplaced (which in some ways crosses over with my paper on the trust of figure heads of philanthropic organisations).

Evening Lee
Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and thank you again for all your support on the Discussion Board over the last couple of weeks. I would have been lost with you. I only use Gumtree when buying anything local. When I need to purchase something in the eastern states or overseas I purchase it from eBay which makes the assumption of trust a foregone conclusion as I cannot verify their authenticity in a face-to-face situation. I appreciate the importance of a user review system as your preference for using Gumtree however eBay also has this service and as my paper stated eBay also have a user review system and is the largest online review system currently available.

While I did say some element of trust, maybe it would have been better if I used the word degree or level instead. This way I could have had a high degree if it was a positive experience or a low degree if deception was uncovered and the experience ended badly.
I also like the statement that deception is a deliberate and malicious act. I think this is because the importance of having morals and ethics is empathised while studying at university and because I am doing a writing degree I understand the importance of abiding by a code of ethics regardless of what we are writing about. I think I must add here that regardless of what I have been taught at university, my parents installed great morals and ethics in my throughout my life so I was already off to a great start.

Thanks again for everything Lee. I am glad you enjoyed my paper. Good luck with the rest of the conference.

Regards, Tracey

Hi Tracey,
I checked into the BB today and saw your post asking for help with replying to comments but as I had already seen last night you had already begun answering everyone realised you’d obviously worked it out. At least if you have to do another online conference you’ll know your way around! Glad that I and the others were able to help you.

I have the feeling from your comment about ethics in writing you must have done the Writing, Rhetoric and Persuasion Unit? That has been one of my favourites. It’s a pity that code doesn’t carry through onto online transactions. I too was brought up with strong principles so like you, and many others, find it hard to believe the depths some go to with their elaborate scams.

Only today as I was reading an article online a clothing advertisement popped up on my screen. There was a photo of a nice thick cardigan and very well priced. I was half tempted so I typed in “review Yomifashion” and was grateful that I did. The reviewing article makes for very interesting reading if you have time. It basically said Yomifashion is a scam but also highlighted what to look out for. eg
If photos are of the item but the heads are cut from the picture then it is generally a copy form another legit website. If there is no physical address shown etc

What worries me more about online shopping is not so much that an item might not be as good as the photo (as you and Anne-Marie were discussing) but handing over my financial details. In 2018 I had almost $9,000 taken out of my credit card. I nearly died from shock. Especially as my husband and I were about to head over to NZ for our daughter’s wedding. Thankfully the bank refunded it as they could see what had happened. Apparently the scammer tries a low transaction like $1 (which they did) if that goes through they try for a larger sum under $5,000 and then try again (both of which they did to mine). Hence I guess why I tend to use Gumtree for that F2F money transaction or a recognised outlet that has a physical and online presence.

Thanks Tracey, happy shopping haha

Hello Tracey,
I was looking forward to reading your paper, although I know you have had some difficulties with the unit, you made it here like everyone else, so well done!! I couldn’t agree more on the topic of trust. Once we get burned using an online service or facility, it definitely leads to an overall mistrust of the system. Gumtree is a good example as well. But also consider when it’s the organisation being deceptive, like Facebook when it was discovered a analytics company had been able to access users data without their knowledge, which was just one of several privacy scandals the organisation faced in recent years.
I don’t necessarily agree that, as you’ve stated, ‘Individuality is lost when people become anonymous and this can have an effect on a person’s demeanour’. Sometimes that anonymity is what characterises ones individuality. I think perhaps the demeanour element is a reaction to the (online)environment for some reason That’s just my view on it.
Overall, a great read. Well done and all the best.


Evening Bruno

Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. Thank you for all your help on the Discussion Board over the last couple of weeks also. I am very grateful. I agree with you that once you have been deceived the experience can often stay with you and it can be difficult to forget the feelings it evoked. I also think you are correct when you say it leads to a mistrust of the system even though the deception was carried out by a member of that system rather than the system itself. While deciding on a topic for my paper I came across an article about Facebook passing on their member’s information and at a huge price I bet! It didn’t do much to harm their reputation though as it caused barely a ripple in the public arena. However, I think that type of deception is much different to the deception I wrote about in my paper.

I understand your standpoint about individuality not becoming lost as a result of anonymity however, I am still adamant that it does. As in face-to-face situations becoming anonymous within an online community can help to create a mob mentality which makes them feel more powerful because they are within a group while also having the ability to hide behind a keyboard and the anonymity of the internet.
Thanks again for reading my paper.

Regards, Tracey

Hi Tracey – this was a really good exploration of an issue that is quite ingrained in our day-to-day life, definitely something I haven’t thought this deeply about for a while. Something that came to mind whilst reading your paper was the specific nature of identity in online marketplaces, especially as they have grown and become commercialised. You predominantly focused on the identities of individuals, but I’ve noticed recently we also have the branded identities of businesses taking an increasingly prominent role on sites like eBay. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on whether the nature of trust differs betweens a personal identity and a business identity? Do you think we are more inclined to trust a business or an individual on a marketplace like eBay, all else being equal?

Really interesting paper. I really liked your discussion on anonymity in communities!


Evening Sam
Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. I have been deceived twice when purchasing items on eBay and both times it was by an individual and I think this is the reason I focused on the assumption of trust in individuals rather than a business. I also think that people are more inclined to trust a business than an individual when purchasing products online. I think this is because there is a false sense of security when interacting with a business and is actually more a mentality thing than anything else. When we walk into a business and purchase something we automatically accept the proprietors are legitimate. I think this also applies when dealing with an online business. Good luck with your paper and the rest of the conference.

Regards, Tracey

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been deceived twice! Thanks for your response, I think it’s a very good argument. I would also add that businesses have certain legal obligations and requirements that may make them more trustworthy (or less inclined to be deceptive) – there’s more they lose when they betray a customer’s trust.

Hi Tracey

I thought I’d find your paper particularly interesting since I have been buying and selling on eBay since 2003. I’ve always had 100% feedback. How is it that people have assumed trust by my username alone to begin with, when I had 0% feedback? When I have bought things on eBay I have always gone by the feedback rating but I’ve also taken a chance at times and bought from someone with no feedback. I was in that situation myself once and someone would have had to take that risk!

There have also been times when buyers/sellers message me stuck with processing things and I will walk them through how to do things, kind of like tech support, those that are on the good side are all one big community that look out for one another!

Whenever I have sold items I’ve always been afraid of getting negative feedback from buyers that are just horrible people. As a seller though, you are protected from getting unwarranted negative feedback:

You mentioned how trust is so important in a faceless environment such as eBay. Do you think there is more that eBay could add to their site/app to show further information about the seller/buyer so that users can feel more secure about who they are dealing with or do you think the feedback rating is enough?


Evening Indre

Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. Congratulations on the 100% positive feedback you have attained. That is impressive. I think a username can influence buyers. If a username is offensive or makes the seller uncomfortable in some way it could have an impact on whether people purchase items from them or not. I also think that some people really don’t worry about usernames or reviews and just purchase what they want and when they want. Maybe they have money to spare or maybe the just have faith in everyone. For these type of people the assumption of trust is probably not an issue.

As for eBay implementing additional features to make sellers more comfortable when purchasing goods online, I am not sure there is much more they can do other than possibly offering sellers some sort of discount on future purchases. I for one would many more reviews if I was going to receive something in return. Thanks again for your comments.

Regards, Tracey

Hi Tracey

Below is another good article in relation to trust in online communities, also using eBay as a case study.

One paragraph within this article particularly resonated with me in relation to your paper:

Fukuyama (1995), who compares differences in trust across cultures, connected trust explicitly to the notion of community. He argued that “communities depend on mutual trust” (p. 25) and that trust itself “arises when a community shares a set of moral values in such a way as to create expectations of regular and honest behaviour”

eBay is certainly an example of a community on a global scale, though many different cultures across vast geographic areas are sharing in this online community, a shared set of moral values (and rules) is necessary to establish trust.

I also agree with comments above that trust is a much more serious consideration determined by the $ value of the purchase – we may all be willing to risk a few dollars and take a ‘punt’ on a cheap item – but few of us will not delve into the feedback and investigate the possibilities for concern when we are making a higher value purchase.

Well done on getting through this unit and producing your paper – I’ve struggled with this unit as well, mostly due to the crazy times we are currently existing in – and it was such a relief to get it done.


Evening Leanne

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my paper. I am sorry that you have also struggled with this unit but on the other hand I take some comfort in knowing that I was not the only one. I would agree with you that communities do depend on mutual trust but unfortunately not everyone abides by a code of ethics. Sad but true and I think in some cases these types of immoral people hide behind other people who do have clear moral standards. I also agree with you that the level of trust depends upon the amount of money being exchanged but I do not think this is the same for everyone. I believe that your level of trust also depends on whether you have been ripped off before. Would you agree that unless you have been deceived or ripped off in the past you would not place much emphasis on the fact that it may happen to them? I am interested in what you think.

Regards, Tracey

Hi Tracey,

Ahh the old cliche, ‘once bitten, twice shy’ – yes I think previous experience would influence your reaction if you were ripped off for a second or third occasion (even if the $ value was low). It’s the moral values that come in to play, perhaps if it was the first time you were deceived you would take more ownership of that – I should have read their feedback more thoroughly, I shouldn’t have purchased online etc – but if it were a second or third time you would just be angry that these people are out there, deceiving perhaps hundreds of people and for hundreds of small $ values that may add up to great gains for them.



Hi Tracey,

You have picked a very important topic of trust and authenticity in online communities. Thank you for tackling this one so well.

You have basically nailed it when you say, “Deception threatens the stability of online auction sites, their members and their reputations”. Identity anonymity/pseudonymity issues come to the fore again here, as it does in my own paper.

On Ebay, users of the platform use screen names even though their details are supposedly stored on each member’s account. That certainly has not stopped fraudsters from prowling on the auction site. Even though they have some mitigatory processes against bad behaviours, once trust is lost in a bad experience, it is hard to want to participate again. Come to think of it, I have had a few lemons via Ebay!

I agree with your idea that, “Digital deceit is faceless, genderless and deliberate” which is also true in real life; people make those conscious decisions to commit crime, only in this case it is highlighted by the affordance of anonymity/pseudonymity.

Talep McFadzean posted this link on my paper about a possible solution to the identity issues in online communities and SNSs ( I wonder what your sentiments might be on its contents.

My paper is on this link:

Thank you again for a well presented paper!


Hi Tracey,

Well done on getting your paper up! It was an interesting read.

For me, eBay represents more of a network than a community. It’s not something that I’ve ever felt a part of or something that I’ve belonged to, instead it’s a network that I can access when I have a specific need. There is no connection beyond that. No doubt that experience is different for other people, so I’m curious to know what it is about the platform that makes it a community for you? Perhaps Indre, who has been selling since 2003, can shed a bit of light on that for me as well!

You mention that deception can result in accounts being suspended or permanently closed. Do you know if there are legal ramifications for this kind of behaviour in Australia or does the policing of this come down to eBay and the individuals involved?

The claim by Resnick and Zeckhauser that eBay has one of the best reputation systems was made in 2001. I would have been interested to see some more recent figures around the amount of deceptive activity happening on eBay to understand if that claim is still relevant, and perhaps a comparison against other online marketplaces to be able to measure eBay’s performance from a broader perspective.

Overall, I think you’ve made a strong argument that demonstrates the importance of trust and authenticity for online marketplaces such as eBay.

Thanks Tracey!

Hi Anna and Tracey

I think the community side of eBay is that it belongs more to the sellers and those that are buying would find eBay a network. There is a “Community” link at the bottom of the eBay website, that leads to a forum/discussion boards:

If you are interested in selling something for the first time, you might want to know how to go about doing things, or if you wanted to go into an eBay business there is lot more to it, so that’s where the forum might be useful. It’s also there for people who have any issues with buying. This is where I see a community-spirit side to eBay.

But definitely, if you are just looking to buy here or there, eBay would just be a network that reaches out to different products/services.

Hope this sheds some light for you! I’ve never really used the forum myself but I know it’s there. 🙂


Hi Tracey,

Ahh the old cliche, ‘once bitten, twice shy’ – yes I think previous experience would influence your reaction if you were ripped off for a second or third occasion (even if the $ value was low). It’s the moral values that come in to play, perhaps if it was the first time you were deceived you would take more ownership of that – I should have read their feedback more thoroughly, I shouldn’t have purchased online etc – but if it were a second or third time you would just be angry that these people are out there, deceiving perhaps hundreds of people and for hundreds of small $ values that may add up to great gains for them.



Hello Tracey,

Great read, on the awareness of Ebay and pitfalls one may encounter when shopping or bidding online. I regularly purchase from Ebay, and majority of the times, it has been a good experience. I do however, pay with Paypal for Insurance policy and i tend to make sure that the seller has a high star rating. I rarely bid on items, just mainly click on Buy it now if the price is reasonable and it is the product i am after. I rarely bid on items because i mostly purchase the item brand new. However, as you have highlighted in your argument, honesty and truthfulness meaning items description actually matches the product being sold. I am generally more aware of the items description and if i am not sure, i would message the seller to get some clarification. I have not experienced a seller conducting some fraudulent activity or any comments that is malicious, but Ebay has a refund policy on items if purchased item was not received, or product did not match the description or the product was faulty.

Thanks Tracey and great read.

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