, Volume 23, Issue 3-4, pp 333-345

The Case of Online Trust

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Abstract

This paper contributes to the debate on online trust addressing the problem of whether an online environment satisfies the necessary conditions for the emergence of trust. The paper defends the thesis that online environments can foster trust, and it does so in three steps. Firstly, the arguments proposed by the detractors of online trust are presented and analysed. Secondly, it is argued that trust can emerge in uncertain and risky environments and that it is possible to trust online identities when they are diachronic and sufficient data are available to assess their reputation. Finally, a definition of trust as a second-order property of first-order relation is endorsed in order to present a new definition of online trust. According to such a definition, online trust is an occurrence of trust that specifically qualifies the relation of communication ongoing among individuals in digital environments. On the basis of this analysis, the paper concludes by arguing that online trust promotes the emergence of social behaviours rewarding honest and transparent communications.