Snopes.com

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Urban Legends Reference Pages (snopes.com)
Snopes logo
Web address www.snopes.com
Commercial? Yes
Type of site
Reference pages
Registration Required only on forums
Owner Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Created by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Launched 1995
Alexa rank
2,613 (April 2014)[1]
Current status Active

Snopes.com /ˈsnps/, also known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a website covering urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin.[2] It is a well-known website that claims to validate and debunk such stories in American popular culture,[3] receiving 300,000 visits a day.[4]

Snopes.com was run by Barbara and David Mikkelson,[5] a California couple who met in the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup.[6] The site is organized by topic and includes a message board where stories and pictures of questionable veracity may be posted. The Mikkelsons claimed to have founded the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society but there is evidence that was a false claim.[7]

The snopes.com website was the only revenue earning asset of an S corporation called BarDav that was located in Agoura Hills, California. In 2015 the Mikkelson's divorced and during divorce proceedings Barbara claimed that her husband had embezzled $98,000 from the company which he "expended upon himself and the prostitutes he hired."[7] Since their divorce David Mikkelson, who has remarried, has been responsible for managing the website.

The site has sometimes been accused of having a liberal or left-wing[8][9] or politically correct bias, as when it allegedly denied cases of black on white violence,[10] most notably the site's alleged minimization of the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom,[11] or expressed pro-Islamic views.[12]

History

David Mikkelson used the username "snopes" (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner)[13][14] in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban.[15] The Mikkelsons created the Snopes site in 1995,[16] and later worked on the site full-time.[6][14][16]

A television pilot based on the site, called Snopes: Urban Legends, was completed with American actor Jim Davidson as host, but major networks passed on the project.[14]

Main site

Snopes aims to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends. The site has been referenced by news media and other sites, including CNN,[17] Fox News Channel,[18] MSNBC,[19] and Australia's ABC on its Media Watch program. Snopes' popular standing is such that some chain e-mail hoaxes claim to have been "checked out on 'Snopes.com'" in an attempt to discourage readers from seeking verification.[20] As of March 2009, the site had approximately 6.2 million visitors per month.[21]

The Mikkelsons have said the reference portion of the name Urban Legends Reference Pages indicates that their intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors, but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmation as well.[22] Where appropriate, pages are generally marked "undetermined" or "unverifiable" if the Mikkelsons feel there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.[23] The Mikkelsons have said many of the urban legends are mistakenly attributed because of common problems associated with e-mail signatures.[24]

Lost Legends

In an attempt to demonstrate the perils of over-reliance on the internet as authority, the Mikkelsons assembled a series of fabricated urban folklore tales that they term "The Repository of Lost Legends".[25] The name was chosen for its acronym, T.R.O.L.L., a reference to the early 1990s definition of the word troll, meaning an Internet prank, of which David Mikkelson was a prominent practitioner.[15]

One fictional legend alleged that the children's nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" was really a coded reference used by pirates to recruit members. This parodied a real false legend surrounding the supposed connection of "Ring a Ring o' Roses" to the bubonic plague. Although the creators were sure that no one could believe a tale so ridiculous—and had added a link at the bottom of the page to another page explaining the hoax,[26] and a message with the ratings reading "Note: Any relationship between these ratings and reality is purely coincidental"—eventually the legend was featured as true in an urban legends board game and television show.[27] The television show, Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed, was shown to have been using information from Snopes when one of Snopes' invented "lost legends" appeared on the program as true.[15]

Accuracy

In December, 2016, the Daily Mail revealed that the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society was a fictitious organization made up by Mikkelsons to give themselves more credibiity. The Daily Mail reports "the couple had posed as 'The San Fernardo Valley Folklore Society', using its name on letterheads, even though it did not exist."[7]

Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist who has written a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, was reported by Cathy Seipp to have said that "he considers the site so comprehensive as to obviate launching one of his own," although he may have changed his opinion now given the recent revelations about Snopes.[16]

David Mikkelson has said that the site receives more complaints of liberal bias than conservative bias,[28].

FactCheck 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. FactCheck noted that Barbara Mikkelson was a Canadian citizen (and thus unable to vote in US elections) and David Mikkelson was an independent who was once registered as a Republican. "You'd be hard-pressed to find two more apolitical people," David Mikkelson told them.[28][29]

Donald Hank argues that the owners of Snopes are clearly liberal, based on their public appeals to biased media sources, and their use of red herrings in debunking myths unbecoming to liberal figures. [30]

Traffic and users

In mid-2013, Snopes.com's Alexa rating was 2,720, with the average user spending 1.83 minutes per day on the site and 27,272 sites linking in. Of the users, 79.5% originate from within the United States.[1] In 2010, the site attracted 7 to 8 million unique visitors in one month.[31]

Revenues and expenses

BarDav1120S-2014.png

A 2015 1120S IRS filing contained in the divorce documents obtained by WeSearchr suggest that gross revenues of BarDav were $1.2M in 2014.[32]

The same divorce proceedings documents claimed that David Mikkelson received an annual salary of $240,000 and that the net profit of $735,000 would be divided between the Mikkelsons.

Controversy

In addition to the claims about the Mikkelsons's using the letterhead of a fictitious organization, the Daily Mail article further reported that in her Divorce filing, Barbard Mikkelson claims that David Mikkelson "embezzled $98,000 from the company over the course of four years 'which he expended upon himself and the prostitutes he hired'."[7]

The article further claimed that "One of the lead fact-checkers, Kim LaCapria, has also been a sex-and-fetish blogger who went by the pseudonym 'Vice Vixen.'"[7]

The Mikkelson's divorce documents were obtained and placed online by WeSearchr.[32]

2017 Lawsuit

Proper Media, the company that provides Snopes with web development, hosting, and advertising support filed suit in May, 2017 against Bardav, the company that owns and operates Snopes. Bardav filed a cross-complaint in June, 2017. David Mikkelson claims that he has not received proper advertising revenue from Proper Media since February and that the site may have to shut down if a revenue stream is not found soon. Snopes created a crowd-funding site on July 24, 2017. He also claims that the site is being held "hostage" by being prevented from modifying the site or receiving advertising revenue.[33][34]

Proper Media claims that they are not just a vendor, but own 50% of Bardav as a result of purchasing Barbara Mikkelson's share of the company after her divorce from David Mikkelson. As co-owners, they are disputing payments to David Mikkelson, including a $10,000 travel expense to pay for his honeymoon with his new wife Elyssa Young, a Snopes employee.[33][34]

A court hearing is scheduled for August 4, 2017. Proper Media is seeking to remove David Mikkelson from the company, and Mikkelson is attempting to cease using Proper Media for web services. [35]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Snopes.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Snopes.com: Debunking Myths in Cyberspace National Public Radio August 27, 2005
  3. Neil Henry, American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media (University of California Press 2007), p. 285.
  4. David Pogue (July 15, 2010). "At Snopes.com, Rumors Are Held Up to the Light". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Snopes". snopes.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Brian Stelter (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Alana Goodman (December 21, 2016). "EXCLUSIVE: Facebook 'fact checker' who will arbitrate on 'fake news' is accused of defrauding website to pay for prostitutes - and its staff includes an escort-porn star and 'Vice Vixen domme'". Daily Mail. Retrieved January 15, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Peter Hasson (Jun 17, 2016) http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/17/fact-checking-snopes-websites-political-fact-checker-is-just-a-failed-liberal-blogger/
  9. (Feb 27, 2009) http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2195441/posts
  10. "Snopes gets Snoped again -- This time with black mob violence at Mall St Matthews in Louisville" (Jan 3, 2017) https://youtu.be/WBtYjFXZCY8
  11. internal discussion | http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?p=166276
  12. (2017) http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/articles/snopes-perfect-man.aspx
  13. "Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved 2006-06-09. What are 'snopes'?<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Bond, Paul (September 7, 2002). "Web site separates fact from urban legend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 17, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 See Michele Tepper, "Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information" in David Porter, ed., Culture (1997) at 48 ("[T]he two most notorious trollers in AFU, Ted Frank and snopes, are also two of the most consistent posters of serious research.").
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Seipp, Cathy (July 21, 2004). "Where Urban Legends Fall". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 23 July 2004. Retrieved 7 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Beth Nissen (2001-10-03). "CNN.com - Hear the rumor? Nostradamus and other tall tales". Archives.cnn.com. Retrieved 2009-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Teens Abusing Energy-Boosting Drinks, Doctors Fear - Health News | Current Health News | Medical News". FoxNews.com. 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2009-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Urban Legends Banned-April Fools'!". MSNBC. 2007-04-01. Retrieved 2009-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Who Is Barack Obama?". Retrieved 22 January 2008.
  21. Reader's Digest: "Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax?". Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  22. "Urban Legends Reference Pages: (Frequently Asked Questions)". (Re "How do I know the information you've presented is accurate?".) Retrieved June 9, 2006.
  23. "Round Rock Gangs". Snopes. Retrieved 2009-05-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Learn to Recognize Fraudulent Emails.Wells Fargo
  25. "Urban Legends Reference Page: Lost Legends". Retrieved 9 June 2006.
  26. "Urban Legends Reference Page: Lost Legends (False Authority)". Retrieved 9 June 2006.
  27. "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Humor (Mostly True Stories)". Retrieved 20 June 2006.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Snopes.com". FactCheck. 2009-04-10. Retrieved 2011-11-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Snopes.com gets an 'A'". Network World. April 13, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Is the owner of Snopes.com liberal?". November 27, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Stelter, Brian (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. 32.0 32.1 "BOOM: @WeSearchr & Mike @Cernovich Release 800+ PAGES Of Nasty @Snopes Divorce Records To The Public Online". GotNews. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. 33.0 33.1 Snopes, in Heated Legal Battle, Asks Readers for Money to Survive The New York Times July 24 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/24/business/media/snopes-crowdfunding-proper-media.html
  34. 34.0 34.1 Is Snopes.com, the original Internet fact-checker, going out of business? The Washington Post July 24 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/is-snopescom-the-original-internet-fact-checker-going-out-of-business/2017/07/24/8a03d196-708d-11e7-8839-ec48ec4cae25_story.html?utm_term=.fa7635fa05ab
  35. One of the most prominent sites calling out fake news may shut down because it's being held 'hostage' by ad vendor Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/snopes-shutting-down-hostage-advertiser-2017-7

External links