Legitimation in government social media communication: the case of the Brexit department

Sten Hansson, Ruth Page

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When governments introduce controversial policies or face a risk of policy failure, officeholders try to avoid blame and justify their decisions by using various legitimation strategies. This paper focuses on the ways in which legitimations are expressed in government social media communication, using the Twitter posts of the British government’s Brexit department as an example. We show how governments may seek legitimacy by appealing to (1) the personal authority of individual policymakers, (2) the collective authority of (political) organisations, (3) the impersonal authority of rules or documents, (4) the goals or effects of government policy, (5) ‘the will of the people’, and (6) time pressure. The results suggest that official legitimations in social media posts tend to rely more on references to authority and shared values rather than presentation of evidence and sound arguments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Discourse Studies
Early online date4 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Legitimisation
  • government communication
  • blame avoidance
  • social media
  • Twitter
  • Brexit
  • argumentation
  • rationalisation


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