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.
Type of site
|Created by||Barbara Mikkelson|
David P. Mikkelson
|Registration||Required only on forums|
|Launched||1994(as Urban Legends Reference Pages)|
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 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 of 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".
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. Where appropriate, pages are generally marked "undetermined" or "unverifiable" when there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.
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.
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.
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 has been added to the site which disables ads.
- "How the Truth Set Snopes Free". Webby Awards. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Streitfeld, David (December 25, 2016). "For Fact Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- "Snopes.com: Debunking Myths in Cyberspace]". NPR. August 27, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2005.
- Allison, Melissa (March 4, 2007). "Companies Find Rumors Hard to Kill on Internet". Herald and Review. (image 3).
- Same article: "Corporations Combat Insistent Urban Legends on Internet". The Courier. March 4, 2007. (image 7).
- 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...
- "Triangulation 343 David Mikkelson, Snopes.com". TWiT.tv. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- Brian Stelter (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
What are 'snopes'?
- Bond, Paul (September 7, 2002). "Web site separates fact from urban legend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
- 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.
- Seipp, Cathy (July 21, 2004). "Where Urban Legends Fall". National Review. Archived from the original on August 12, 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
- Stelter, Brian (April 4, 2010). "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- "Snopes.com Audience Insights". Quantcast.
- Madrigal, Alexis C. (July 24, 2017). "Snopes Faces an Ugly Legal Battle". The Atlantic.
- Bruno, Bianca (May 10, 2017). "Fact-Checker Snopes' Owners Accused of Corporate Subterfuge". Courthouse News.
- Farhi, Paul (July 24, 2017). "Is Snopes.com, the original Internet fact-checker, going out of business?". The Washington Post.
- Victor, Daniel (July 24, 2017). "Snopes, in Heated Legal Battle, Asks Readers for Money to Survive". The New York Times.
- "Snopes Meets $500K Crowdfunding Goal Amid Legal Battle". Bloomberg. Associated Press. July 25, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Dean, Michelle (September 20, 2017). "Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-Fact World". Wired. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Snopes Acquires On The Issues". Snopes. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
- Potash, Eric (November 4, 2016). "Why It's So Hard to Find Out Where the Candidates Stand". Washington Monthly. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- Nissen, Beth (October 3, 2001). "Hear the rumor? Nostradamus and other tall tales". CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
- "Urban Legends Banned-April Fools'!". MSNBC. April 1, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
- "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Who Is Barack Obama?". Snopes. August 24, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Frequently Asked Questions". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
How do I know the information you've presented is accurate?
- "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Round Rock Gangs". Snopes. July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
- "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Lost Legends". Snopes. Retrieved June 9, 2006.
- "Ask FactCheck: Snopes.com". FactCheck.org. April 10, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
- "Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Snopes.com gets an 'A'". Network World. April 13, 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2014.
- Fader, Carole (September 28, 2012). "Fact Check: So who's checking the fact-finders? We are". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
- "Disclosures". Snopes.com. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- Green, Vinny; Mikkelson, David (February 1, 2019). "A Message to Our Community Regarding the Facebook Fact-Checking Partnership". Snopes.com. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
- 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.