Fact-checking website ‘Snopes’ in legal battle to stay in business

There is plenty of misinformation in the digital age so how can readers really know if something posted online is true?

For the past 20 years, Snopes.com has been calling out the lies. Now in a fight for its survival, the fact-checking website which has been in operation since 1994, must convince a judge what truth and what is fiction.

It looks like news: NASA is predicting 15 days of Darkness — but it isn’t true; a mother and her kids killed by their father in some small town — again, not true.

Brooke Binkowski, the Managing Editor of Snopes.com, sets the record straight for readers on anything from big issues like the Senate health care bill, to less significant items like a story claiming a bigfoot corpse was seen in New Mexico.

But this week, the website announced it is in danger of closing its doors.

Snopes Founder David Mikkelson claims its advertising partner, a San Diego company called Proper Media, is withholding ad revenue and choking off the money Snopes needs to run the site.

Binkowski was shocked to learn that she and 15 other staff members could soon lose their jobs.

In an effort to save the site, Snopes set up a GoFundMe page and in just two days, the site raised more than half a million dollars. Some of the money will go towards legal costs in a complicated lawsuit over the ownership of Snopes’ parent company, which was started by Mikkelson and his now ex-wife.

The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Christopher Richmond and Drew Schoentrup who work for Proper Media.

After Mikkelson and his wife divorced in 2015, the plaintiffs claim they along with four other people at Proper Media gained a 50 percent stake in Snopes’ parent company. The plaintiffs also say Mikkelson is mismanaging and swindling the company and they are asking the court to remove him from the board.

Mikkelson has filed a counter-suit.

For Binkowski and her colleagues, the focus is keeping the website alive, especially at a time when fiction poses as news and lies masquerade as truth. She says the response so far has given her hope about Snopes’ future. 

Categories: Local San Diego News