The Meaning of Links

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This article explores the potential and challenges of using hyperlinks as data through a study of polarization in English language blogs about climate change. The purpose of this research is to provide an interpretation of the meaning of the hyperlinks in climate change blogs by coding the functions that the links perform in the given blog posts. Beginning with a set of more than 500,000 blog posts about climate change, we focus on bloggers who actively link to highly visible sources that advocate, respectively, the denial or acceptance of the consensus view on anthropogenic climate change. We find that the bloggers in our sample predominantly link to sources that they agree with and that, if they link to a source with different opinions, the link is part of negative criticism of the targeted source. We argue that, by considering the functions of the links in the blog posts, we obtain a more nuanced understanding of the extent to which the discussion in the blogs is polarized.

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