Snopes /ˈsnps/, formerly known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a fact-checking website.[2] It has been described as a "well-regarded reference for sorting out myths and rumors" on the Internet.[3][4] The site has also been seen as a source for both validating and debunking urban legends and similar stories in American popular culture.[5]

Snopes.com
Snopes logo
Snopes home page screenshot.png
Type of site
Reference pages
Owner
  • David P. Mikkelson[1]
Created byBarbara Mikkelson
David P. Mikkelson[1]
URLsnopes.com
CommercialYes
RegistrationRequired only on forums
Launched1994; 27 years ago (1994) (as Urban Legends Reference Pages)
Current statusActive

HistoryEdit

In 1994,[6] David and Barbara Mikkelson created an urban folklore web site that would become Snopes.com. Snopes was an early online encyclopedia focused on urban legends, which mainly presented search results of user discussions. The site grew to encompass a wide range of subjects and became a resource to which Internet users began submitting pictures and stories of questionable veracity. According to the Mikkelsons, Snopes predated the search engine concept of fact-checking via search results.[7] David Mikkelson had originally adopted the username "Snopes" (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner)[8][9] in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban.[9][10][11]

In 2002, the site had become known well enough that a television pilot called Snopes: Urban Legends was completed with American actor Jim Davidson as host. However, it did not air on major networks.[9]

By 2010, the site was attracting seven million to eight million unique visitors in an average month.[12][13]

By mid-2014, Barbara had not written for Snopes "in several years"[1] and David was forced to hire users from Snopes.com's message board to assist him in running the site. The Mikkelsons divorced around that time.[1][14] Christopher Richmond and Drew Schoentrup became part owners in July 2016 with the purchase of Barbara Mikkelson's share by the internet media management company Proper Media.[15]

On March 9, 2017, David Mikkelson terminated the brokering agreement with Proper Media, which is also the company that provides Snopes with web development, hosting, and advertising support.[16] The move prompted Proper Media to stop remitting advertising revenue and to file a lawsuit in May. In late June, Bardav—the company founded by David and Barbara Mikkelson in 2003 to own and operate snopes.com—started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to continue operations.[17] They raised $500,000 in 24 hours.[18] Later, in August, a judge ordered Proper Media to disburse advertising revenues to Bardav while the case was pending.[19]

In July 2018, Snopes abruptly terminated its contract with Managing Editor Brooke Binkowski, with no explanation. By the time Snopes co-founder and CEO David Mikkelson confirmed the termination to her, the situation was still not clear.[20]

In early 2019, Snopes announced that it had acquired the website OnTheIssues.org, and is "hard at work modernizing its extensive archives".[21] OnTheIssues is a website that seeks to "present all the relevant evidence, assess how strongly each piece supports or opposes a position, and summarize it with an average" in order to "provide voters with reliable information on candidates’ policy positions".[22]

In 2018 and 2019, Snopes fact-checked several articles from The Babylon Bee, a satirical website, rating them "False". The decision resulted in Facebook adding warnings to links to those articles shared on its site.[23][24][25] Snopes added a new rating called "Labeled Satire" to identify satirical stories.[26]

In 2019, Snopes was embroiled in legal disputes with Proper Media, with a court case scheduled for spring 2020. By then Proper Media had become a co-owner of Bardav through acquiring Barbara Mikkelson's half-interest share, intending to take overall ownership of Snopes for its own "portfolio of media sites". The move failed as David Mikkelson had no intention to sell his share.[27]

As of 2020, Vinny Green was the site's Chief Operating Officer.[28]

Plagiarism by co-founder David MikkelsonEdit

On August 13, 2021, BuzzFeed News published an investigation by reporter Dean Sterling Jones that showed David Mikkelson had used plagiarized material from different news sources in 54 articles between 2015 and 2019 in an effort to increase website traffic.[29][30][31] Mikkelson also published plagiarized material under a pseudonym, "Jeff Zarronandia".[29] The BuzzFeed inquiry prompted Snopes to launch an internal review of Mikkelson's articles and retracted 60 of them the day the Buzzfeed story appeared. Mikkelson admitted to committing "multiple serious copyright violations" and apologized for "serious lapses in judgment."[32] He was suspended from editorial duties during the investigation, but remains an officer and stakeholder in the company.[33][34]

Main siteEdit

Snopes aims to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends. The site has been referenced by news media and other sites, including CNN,[35] MSNBC,[36] Fortune, Forbes, and The New York Times.[37] By March 2009, the site had more than six million visitors per month.[38] David Mikkelson runs the website from his home in Tacoma, Washington.[39]

Mikkelson has stressed the reference portion of the name Urban Legends Reference Pages, indicating that the intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmation as well.[40] Where appropriate, pages are generally marked "undetermined" or "unverifiable" when there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.[41]

In an attempt to demonstrate the perils of over-reliance on the Internet as authority, Snopes assembled a series of fabricated urban folklore tales that it termed "The Repository of Lost Legends".[42] The name was chosen for its acronym, T.R.O.L.L., a reference to the definition of the word troll, meaning an internet persona intended to be deliberately provocative or incendiary.[10]

In 2009, FactCheck.org reviewed a sample of Snopes' responses to political rumors regarding George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Barack Obama, and found them to be free from bias in all cases.[43][44] In 2012, The Florida Times-Union reported that About.com's urban legends researcher found a "consistent effort to provide even-handed analyses" and that Snopes' cited sources and numerous reputable analyses of its content confirm its accuracy.[45]

Mikkelson has said that the site receives more complaints of liberal bias than conservative bias, but added that the same debunking standards are applied to all political urban legends.[43]

FundingEdit

In 2016, Snopes said that the entirety of its revenue was derived from advertising.[46] In the same year it received an award of $75,000 from the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization formed to debunk paranormal claims. In 2017, it raised approximately $700,000 from a crowd-sourced GoFundMe effort and received $100,000 from Facebook as a part of a fact-checking partnership.[47]

On February 1, 2019, Snopes announced that it had ended its fact-checking partnership with Facebook. Snopes did not rule out the possibility of working with Facebook in the future but said it needed to "determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication and staff". Snopes added that the loss of revenue from the partnership meant the company would "have less money to invest in our publication—and we will need to adapt to make up for it".[48][49]

A premium membership option that disables ads is offered.[50]

Snopes publishes a yearly summary detailing expenses and sources of income.[47]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "How the Truth Set Snopes Free". Webby Awards. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  2. ^ "Snopes.com: Debunking Myths in Cyberspace". NPR. August 27, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2005.
  3. ^ Allison, Melissa (March 4, 2007). "Companies Find Rumors Hard to Kill on Internet". Herald and Review. (image 3).
  4. ^ Same article: "Corporations Combat Insistent Urban Legends on Internet". The Courier. March 4, 2007. (image 7).
  5. ^ Henry, Neil (2007). American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media. University of California Press. p. 285. The most widely known resource for validating or debunking rumors, myths, hoaxes, and urban legends in popular American culture is the website run by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson at www.snopes.com... .
  6. ^ "Triangulation 343 David Mikkelson, Snopes.com". TWiT.tv. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  7. ^ Brian Stelter (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
  8. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006. What are 'snopes'?
  9. ^ a b c Bond, Paul (September 7, 2002). "Web site separates fact from urban legend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Porter, David (2013). "Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information". Internet Culture. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-135-20904-9. Retrieved September 13, 2016. The two most notorious trollers in AFU, Ted Frank and snopes, are also two of the most consistent posters of serious research.
  11. ^ Seipp, Cathy (July 21, 2004). "Where Urban Legends Fall". National Review. Archived from the original on August 12, 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  12. ^ Stelter, Brian (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "Snopes.com Audience Insights". Quantcast.
  14. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C. (July 24, 2017). "Snopes Faces an Ugly Legal Battle". The Atlantic.
  15. ^ Bruno, Bianca (May 10, 2017). "Fact-Checker Snopes' Owners Accused of Corporate Subterfuge". Courthouse News.
  16. ^ Farhi, Paul (July 24, 2017). "Is Snopes.com, the original Internet fact-checker, going out of business?". The Washington Post.
  17. ^ Victor, Daniel (July 24, 2017). "Snopes, in Heated Legal Battle, Asks Readers for Money to Survive". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Snopes Meets $500K Crowdfunding Goal Amid Legal Battle". Bloomberg. Associated Press. July 25, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  19. ^ Dean, Michelle (September 20, 2017). "Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-Fact World". Wired. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "Snopes fired its managing editor and she doesn't know why". Poynter Institute. July 31, 2018. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  21. ^ "Snopes Acquires On The Issues". Snopes. Retrieved April 13, 2019.[dead link]
  22. ^ Potash, Eric (November 4, 2016). "Why It's So Hard to Find Out Where the Candidates Stand". Washington Monthly. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  23. ^ Wemple, Erik (March 5, 2018). "Opinion | Facebook working on approach to classifying satirical news pieces". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  24. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (August 3, 2019). "Satire or Deceit? Christian Humor Site Feuds With Snopes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  25. ^ Broderick, Ryan (July 31, 2019). "A Christian Satire Site Says Fact-Checkers Are Helping De-Platform Conservatives". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  26. ^ "Let's Make Fact-Checking Even Better". Snopes. August 16, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  27. ^ "Tacoma-based Snopes, debunker of fake news, is locked in a nasty legal dispute". The Seattle Times. June 4, 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  28. ^ Paige Leskin (March 31, 2020). "One of the internet's oldest fact-checking organizations is overwhelmed by coronavirus misinformation – and it could have deadly consequences". Business Insider. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  29. ^ a b Lyons, Jr., Ron (August 13, 2021). "The CEO of fact-checking site Snopes was caught plagiarizing dozens of articles". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  30. ^ Lyons, Kim (August 13, 2021). "Go read this report about a Snopes editor who plagiarized other news sites". The Verge.
  31. ^ "The Cofounder Of The Fact-Checking Site Snopes Was Writing Plagiarized Articles Under A Fake Name". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  32. ^ Murphy, Heather (August 13, 2021). "Snopes Retracts 60 Articles Plagiarized by Co-Founder: 'Our Staff Are Gutted'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  33. ^ Jones, Dean Sterling (August 13, 2021). "The Cofounder Of The Fact-Checking Site Snopes Was Writing Plagiarized Articles Under A Fake Name". BuzzFeed.
  34. ^ Murphy, Heather (August 13, 2021). "Snopes Retracts 60 Articles Plagiarized by Co-Founder: 'Our Staff Are Gutted'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  35. ^ Nissen, Beth (October 3, 2001). "Hear the rumor? Nostradamus and other tall tales". CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  36. ^ "Urban Legends Banned-April Fools'!". MSNBC. April 1, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  37. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Who Is Barack Obama?". Snopes. August 24, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  38. ^ Hochman, David (March 2009). "Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax?". Reader's Digest. Archived from the original on March 18, 2009. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  39. ^ Lacitis, Erik (October 10, 2018). "Lies, lies and more lies. Out of an old Tacoma house, fact-checking site Snopes uncovers them". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  40. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006. How do I know the information you've presented is accurate?
  41. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Round Rock Gangs". Snopes. July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  42. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Lost Legends". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  43. ^ a b "Ask FactCheck: Snopes.com". FactCheck.org. April 10, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  44. ^ "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Snopes.com gets an 'A'". Network World. April 13, 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2014.
  45. ^ Fader, Carole (September 28, 2012). "Fact Check: So who's checking the fact-finders? We are". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  46. ^ Streitfeld, David (December 25, 2016). "For Fact Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  47. ^ a b "Disclosures". Snopes.com. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  48. ^ Green, Vinny; Mikkelson, David (February 1, 2019). "A Message to Our Community Regarding the Facebook Fact-Checking Partnership". Snopes.com. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  49. ^ "Snopes says nope to Facebook's money and leaves fact-checking program". The Verge. February 1, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  50. ^ Izadi, Elahe (April 15, 2020). "There are so many coronavirus myths that even Snopes can't keep up". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2020.

External linksEdit