The role of hyperlinks for climate change

Hyperlinks are the glue of online communities, forming digital footprints of the way individuals make connections (Schulman, 2008). Hyperlinks has multiple functions, and among the many functions it has, there is the basic assumption that hyperlinks help reinforce a report’s facticity by connecting readers directly with sources and showing readers how journalists know what they know (De Maeyer, Citation Needed, 2014). In a study by De Maeyer (2014), it is shown that less than half of the external links achieve the function of directly allowing readers ‘to see for themselves’. Other links mostly supply more information, but do not account for the truth of the written text. The study has shown that hyperlinks do enhance the facticity of news reports, but it is not their sole function, and readers should be cautious of that. (De Maeyer, Citation Needed, 2014). Studies have found that the inclusion, exclusion or deleting of a hyperlink may be viewed as acts of association, non-association or disassociation respectively (De Maeyer, 2012). Hyperlinks also have the ability to function as indicators of authority, as the assumption exists that hyperlinks in content are compared to citations in the academic context (De Maeyer, 2012). Nevertheless, according to De Maeyer (2014), as not all links refer to other sites that account for the truth of the content, hyperlinks should only be seen as indicators of authority, but not the sole truth. Links also are used for research to monitor some aspects of academic performance (De Maeyer, 2012), but studies have found that ‘those who only rely on link counts to judge academic performance, risk serious errors’ (De Maeyer, 2012). Furthermore, links can also signal political affiliations, including the problem of political homophily and cyberbalkanization. This means that people will isolate their information and only perceive content that is closely related to their own ideologies. This phenomenon is related to the next function of hyperlinks. Hyperlinks help to make sense of sets of interconnected blogs. Links significantly help in detecting groups of blogs that show similar linking behaviour and that link to the same sources (De Maeyer, 2012). Links do tend to remain relatively closed, and most links are restrained within national borders. ‘The social structures found in the “real” world are inscribed in online networks’ (Halavais, 2000). Additionally, it is essential to note that the interpretation of links is not an easy task. To somewhat ease the task of link interpretation, several tools have been created (De Maeyer, 2012). Also, when gathering links, one should be very cautious of the obstructiveness of it. Study has found that search algorithms create bias, as search engine optimization become more and more common. De Maeyer describes this phenomenon as ‘the observer, who thought he was invisible, influences what he observes’ (De Maeyer, 2012). When studying links, the context in which the links are created should also be taken into account. The authors indication cannot be found in the links, and one can easily interpret what the intentions are of the author with the links. Given all the functions of links as given above, and the difficulties of link interpretation, it is important to approach the study of hyperlinks with cautious. Especially when it comes to climate change. In an online world where fake news is on the rise and hyperlinks are relatively new phenomenon, it’s vital to approach the issue with attention an delicately. Climate change issues are often subjected to much scientifically loaded information, and the topic of climate change is a trend in many nations. Therefore should the use of hyperlinks in interaction between actors of climate change issues be studied carefully and exhaustively.


De Maeyer, J. (2012). Towards a Hyperlinked Society: A Critical Review of Link Studies. New Media & Society, 737-751.

De Maeyer, J. (2014). Citation Needed. Journalism Practice, 532-541.

Halavais, A. (2000). National Borders on the World Wide Web. New Media & Society, 7-28.

Schulman, S. L. (2008). Hyperlinks and Marketing Insight. In J. Turow, & L. Tsui, The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age (pp. 145-158). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Retrieved from