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

History

In 1994, 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, that 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. David Mikkelson had originally adopted the username "Snopes" (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner) in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban. 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. By 2010, the site was attracting seven million to eight million unique visitors in an average month. By mid-2014, Barbara had not written for Snopes "in several years" 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. 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. 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. This 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. They raised $500,000 in 24 hours. Later, in August, a judge ordered Proper Media to disburse advertising revenues to Bardav while the case was pending. In early 2019, Snopes announced that it had acquired the website OnTheIssues.org, and is "hard at work modernizing its extensive archives". 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". Currently, Vinny Green serves as Chief Operating Officer.

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, MSNBC, ''Fortune'', ''Forbes'', and ''The New York Times''. By March 2009, the site had more than 6 million visitors per month. Mikkelson runs the website out of his home in Tacoma, Washington. Mikkelson has stressed the ''reference'' portion of the name ''Urban Legends Reference Pages'', indicating that their intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmation as well. the Where appropriate, pages are generally marked "undetermined" or "unverifiable" when there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.

Lost legends

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 terms "The Repository of Lost Legends". 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 or an Internet persona intended to be deliberately provocative or incendiary.

Accuracy

Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist who has written a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, considered the site so comprehensive that in 2004 he decided not to launch one of his own to similarly discuss the accuracy of various legends and rumors. 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. 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. 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.


The Babylon Bee controversy


The satirical news articles presented by ''The Babylon Bee'' have been fact-checked by Snopes repeatedly, and some of these fact-checks have been controversial. For example, in March 2018, ''The Babylon Bee'' published an article quipping that CNN was using an industrial-sized washing machine to "spin" the news. Snopes fact-checked the article, rating it "false". Facebook then cited this fact-check in a warning message to ''The Babylon Bee'', threatening to limit their content distribution and monetization. Ford tweeted a screenshot of the warning message to his followers, drawing public attention to the matter. Facebook quickly apologized, with the statement that "there's a difference between false news and satire. This was a mistake and should not have been rated false in our system. It's since been corrected and won't count against the domain in any way." In July 2019, Erica Thomas, a Georgia State Representative born in the United States, claimed to be told to "go back to where she came from" by a man in a grocery store. It was later found that witnesses did not corroborate her story, and the man in question was a Democrat who claimed he was only upset because of the number of groceries she brought to an express checkout lane. The Representative retracted her initial recollection of the incident. ''The Babylon Bee'' published an article referencing the incident titled "Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said 'My Pleasure'", which Snopes rated "false". They also this time suggested that the article was deliberately deceptive, rather than genuinely satirical. Ford responded on Twitter, highlighting what he deemed to be problematic wording in the fact-check.''The Babylon Bee'' also released a statement, calling the fact-check a "smear" that was "both dishonest and disconcerting." The statement concluded by saying a law firm had been retained to represent ''The Babylon Bee'' because "Snopes appears to be actively engaged in an effort to discredit and deplatform us." After receiving some backlash and a formal demand letter from ''The Babylon Bee's'' attorney, Snopes made revisions to the wording of the fact check and added an explanatory editor's note. The ''Bee's'' Chief executive, Seth Dillon, appeared on Fox News in August 2019 to discuss the feud between the ''Bee'' and Snopes. He said ''The Babylon Bee'' must take the matter seriously "because social networks, which we depend on for our traffic, have relied upon fact-checking sources in the past to determine what's fake news and what isn't. In cases where nopesis calling us fake news and lumping us in with them rather than saying this is satire, that could actually damage us. It could put our business in jeopardy." Snopes' co-founder David Mikkelson acknowledged to ''The New York Times'' that their fact-check was poorly written, but denied trying to discredit ''The Babylon Bee.'' In an interview with ''BuzzFeed News'', Mikkelson stated, "The question you should be asking is not: 'Why is Snopes addressing material from a particular site so often?' But, 'What is it about that site that makes its content trigger the fact-check threshold?'" In August 2019, Snopes announced a new rating for satire sites called "labeled satire". Articles from ''The Babylon Bee'' that were previously rated "false" have been updated with the new rating. Snopes explains the label: "This rating indicates that a claim is derived from content described by its creator and/or the wider audience as satire. Not all content described by its creator or audience as 'satire' necessarily constitutes satire, and this rating does not make a distinction between 'real' satire and content that may not be effectively recognized or understood as satire despite being labeled as such." Mann objected to this label in an op-ed published in ''The Wall Street Journal'', writing that the label "is meant to suggest that we are somehow making jokes in bad faith".


Funding


In 2016, Snopes said that the entirety of its revenue was derived from advertising. However, in 2016, it also 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. 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". A premium membership option which disables ads is offered. Snopes publishes a yearly summary detailing their expenses and sources of income, aside from advertising revenue.

See also

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References




External links

* {{Disinformation Category:Internet properties established in 1995 Category:Webby Award winners Category:Skepticism Category:1995 establishments in California Category:Fact-checking websites