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...Does Google actually see this as a link out of my site.
If so this will hurt SEO so I would like to know the answer.
A link out of your site hurts your site. Every SEO book I've read says that.
I was hoping for someone to give me a definite answer on this, not an opinion.
I wouldn’t recommend closing comments in an attempt to "hoard" your PageRank. In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.
We can only tell you what we've seen. I myself have observed that linking out to good sites appears to help boost a page's ranking, and many other SEOs I respect have observed the same.
For Google SEO, Matt Cutts is perhaps the highest "authority" one can find. That said, not everyone trusts Matt's answers, and the algo changes over time. I have seen some SEOs say that the idea that linking out will help you is an SEO myth, but of course those comments are also opinions.