Snopes raises over $500K to stay alive during legal battle

False: The for-profit fact-checking website has no choice but to shut down.
July 25, 2017, 9:53am

True: The dot-com era mythbuster turned fake news watchdog Snopes.com is on the ropes over a protracted legal battle with one of its advertising tech vendors.

False: The for-profit fact-checking website has no choice but to shut down.

In a GoFundMe digital fundraiser launched Monday, Snopes pulled in its goal of $500,000, which will allow the website to operate while the fight continues.

Snopes is attempting to cancel its contract with Proper Media, which manages Snopes’ advertising business. Proper Media lawyers, however, claim that one of Proper’s executives holds a Snopes’ board seat (which Snopes disputes). Therefore, the board meeting where the decision was made to cancel Proper’s contract was, in fact, an illegitimate meeting in the absence of the Proper Media executive.

The dispute has devolved into he-said, she-said chaos. Snopes staff say that Proper Media still retains some control of the Snopes.com domain, and they can’t access all of Snopes’ bank accounts, ad services, and other “key databases [Snopes] needs to do its job.” But Proper Media says Snopes founder and leader David Mikkelson does have control over the domain and that nothing is being “wrongfully withheld,” the New York Times reported.

The parties aim to resolve the matter at an Aug. 4 court hearing in San Diego, where Proper Media will attempt to oust Mikkelson, who it claims is mismanaging the site. If the court doesn’t rule in Snopes’ favor, the site could be forced to downsize.

In the last couple years, Snopes has been operating with the wind at its back because of the rise of social media-based “fake news” and the 2016 election. The increased site traffic — currently around 15 million unique visitors a month, according to Quantcast — led Mikkelson to hire more fact-checkers and business operations staffers.

Correction 12:48 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Snopes launched its GoFundMe late Monday evening. Its crowdfunding campaign began Monday morning.