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July 24, 2017, 12:28 p.m.
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LINK: www.snopes.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   July 24, 2017

Snopes is in trouble. The hoax-debunking site, founded in 1994, has in the past year gained prominence as one of the lines of defense against viral misinformation (profiles here and here), joining the likes of PolitiFact and AP as Facebook’s fact-checking partners in the social platform’s first attempt at addressing the spread of fake news in its ecosystem.

It’s also currently being “held hostage,” it alleges, by a vendor it contracted with in 2015 and ended ties with this past spring — but underlying that legal battle seems to be an argument between Snopes cofounder David Mikkelson and his ex-wife, Barbara Mikkelson, over control of the company. Snopes parent company Bardav, Inc. and the vendor, Proper Media, filed complaints against each other over issues stemming from that contract termination. Snopes alleges that Proper Media continues to control the advertising on Snopes.com, and is withholding revenue from those ads from the Snopes team. Proper Media, meanwhile, alleges that David Mikkelson “has engaged in a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits.” (Daniel Funke has a lot more useful background on the battle over at Poynter.)

Snopes is now embarking on a #SaveSnopes campaign, and looking for reader donations. On Gofundme, Snopes has a campaign set up and is looking to raise at least $500,000.

From its note to readers, published on Monday:

We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the Snopes.com web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site’s hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.

Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.

“Proper Media suggests that the media conduct its own fact-check of the fundraising plea posted today on Snopes.com,” Karl Kronenberger, counsel for Proper Media, wrote in an email response. “In summary, today’s post only confirms Proper Media’s allegations that Mr. Mikkelson has drained the company’s bank accounts and is unable to operate Snopes profitably without Proper Media’s expertise and management.”

We’ve reached out to the Snopes team for comment and will update the post when we hear back.

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