The purpose of this paper is to investigate how public policies may influence the way members of virtual communities linked with social movements perceive the legitimacy…
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how public policies may influence the way members of virtual communities linked with social movements perceive the legitimacy of their leaders and governance structures.
This paper is based on qualitative research (in‐depth interviews) with three Brazilian environmental education virtual communities. It adopts an interpretive approach, grounding the analysis in institutional theory.
The paper shows that a public policy of funding the studied communities has reinforced the legitimacy of some leaders and legitimated more centralised decision‐making structures. The influence of the funding has endured even after the end of the respective contracts.
Although the paper is limited to three virtual communities in a very specific context, its conclusions may inform other studies on the institutional instruments (sanctions mechanisms) governments may appropriate to influence the virtual interactions among members of social movements and civil society organisations and which impact their offline interactions as well.
The paper calls attention to the need to discuss public policies with stakeholders, especially to permit social movements and civil society organisations to have a say in policies that may affect their social structures.
The paper contributes to understanding how public policies impact interactions in virtual environments and in a broader sense, and the relevance of considering the influence of institutions in online interactions.