Snopes.com /snoʊps/, formally known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is one of the first online fact-checking websites. It has been termed a "well-regarded source 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 and David P. Mikkelson|
|Editor||Brooke Binkowski, managing editor|
|Alexa rank||2,353 (US 606) (September 2017)|
|Registration||Required only on forums|
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 antedated the search engine concept where people could go to check facts by searches. David Mikkelson had originally adopted the username "Snopes" (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner) as a username in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban.
In 2002, the site had become well-known 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. Christopher Richmond and Drew Schoentrup later became owners with Mikkelson through a partnership with the founders of a company called Proper Media. By mid-2014, Barbara had not written for the site "in several years" and David hired employees to assist him from Snopes.com's message board. The Mikkelsons divorced around that time, and Barbara no longer has an ownership stake in Snopes.com.
On March 9, 2017 Mikkelson terminated a brokering agreement with Proper Media, 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.
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 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, of which David Mikkelson was a prominent practitioner.
Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist who has written a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, considered the site so comprehensive in 2004 that he decided not to launch one of his own to similarly discuss the accuracy or various legends and rumors.
In 2012, 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 states that the same debunking standards are applied to all political urban legends.
Critics of the site have falsely asserted that it is funded by businessman and philanthropist George Soros, or linked sites, but all of Snopes’s revenue is from advertising on the site. In December 2016, the New York Times stated:
All of Snopes’s revenue – Mr. Mikkelson says he doesn’t know what it is – come from ads. Facebook is not paying for its services. Nor is the billionaire George Soros funding the site, although that is sometimes asserted in anti-Snopes stories.
Later, in 2017 Snopes reported that it received $100,000 that year from Facebook for participating in their fact-checking partnership effort.
As of December 2017, Snopes.com's web traffic rank in the world stood at 3,798 with approximately 72% originating from the U.S. with web traffic declining from previous months. As of April 2017, Snopes.com's Alexa rating was 1,794. Approximately 80% of its visitors originate from within the United States. In 2017, the site attracted 20 million unique visitors in one month.
What are 'snopes'?
The two most notorious trollers in AFU, Ted Frank and snopes, are also two of the most consistent posters of serious research.
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