This was supposed to be a day of celebration for the creators of fake news.
Snopes, the world-renowned fact-checking website, was set to close down the site over multiple legal battles.
Thanks to the generosity of mythbuster-loving, fake-news-loathing readers, Snopes got its reprieve.
At least for now.
Those legal battles? Interestingly enough, they have nothing to do with the myths, urban legends and fake news that Snopes relentlessly pursues.
It all really comes down to money and ownership. Snopes didn’t have enough to money fight the battles over ad revenue and ownership and keep the site running.
On July 24, Snopes founder David Mikkelson said the site was in danger of shutting down completely because of problems with “an outside vendor.” The “vendor” controlled the Snopes.com domain and shut down access to all advertising revenue.
Essentially, the vendor, said Mikkelson, was threatening to “hold the Snopes.com website hostage.”
The battle moves to court Friday.
The problem for Snopes’ (beyond shuttering its online doors forever) is reputation.
Snopes never really had funding problems. Since 1994, when Mikkelson launched the site, Snopes was a completely self-sufficient entity, independent from any news organization, political group or foundation.
It is still completely owned by its operators and, until last week, funded through advertising revenues.
According to the Snopes.com “About” page, “neither the site nor its operators has ever received monies from (or been engaged in any business or editorial relationship with) any sponsor, political party, religious group ...” and so on.One of the funnier questions on its FAQs page is:
“Are you funded by George Soros?”
“No ... and we wouldn’t recognize George Soros if we sat next to him on a bus.”
But when your back’s against the wall, to whom do you turn for help?
Your friends. And Mikkelson has thousands of them: long-time, loyal users of the oldest and largest fact-checking site on the internet.
Mikkelson and “Team Snopes” used crowdfunding site GoFundMe to ask those friends for a half-million dollars.
The GoFundMe page included a plea from Team Snopes. “We need our community now more than ever, as it is only through your support that Snopes.com can remain the community and resource we all know and love.”
In less than a week, it generated $680,000 from more than 24,000 donors.
In an update posted July 31, Team Snopes said the money it raised will be used to keep the site running during litigation.
The future of Snopes remains in limbo. But thanks to the generosity of thousands of friends of the fake news busters, Snopes will be with us a little while longer.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.