Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Inside Snopes: the rise, fall, and rebirth of an internet icon

Fast Company: “America’s premier fact-checking site was failed by the two men who had charge of it, critics say. As Snopes turns a corner, here’s the tale of what went so right—and so wrong….Snopes predated, created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in 2003, and, created in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Times—now run by the Poynter Institute. But unlike those outlets, Snopes’ identity was never quite clear. Was it a fact-checking newsroom or a place for irony-laced commentary? Or something in between? And wasn’t Snopes entitled to growing pains? …Mikkelson, a divorced computer programmer in California, met Barbara Hamel, a divorced bookkeeper in Canada, on Usenet, a precursor of sorts to Reddit, where the two lorded over a prolific channel called alt.folklore.urban. AFU acted like the site’s fact-checker for far-flung urban legends. If, for example, a rumor was circulating around the internet (and watercoolers and lunchrooms) about a cactus that disgorged scorpions, AFU’s job was to investigate. AFU is ultimately a footnote in the story of Snopes—the now well-regarded fact-checking site for sorting out myths, rumors, and misinformation on the internet, which averaged around 6.4 million page views per month in 2022, according to analytics company Comscore. But it’s an important one: AFU is where some of Snopes’ civic-minded DNA was spun, and arguably where Mikkelson’s blend of aptitude and arrogance was first put on display in a saga that would, in the end, remind the world that sometimes the people who police our messy digital lives are themselves in need of, at a minimum, some adult supervision. [A long and important read as Snopes figured prominently in the toolbox of researchers for decades, and may yet again.]

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.