Snopes, formerly known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages, claims to be one of the first online fact-checking websites. It has been considered as a “well-regarded reference for sorting out myths and rumors” on the Internet. It has also been seen as a source for authenticating and debunking urban legends and similar stories in American popular culture.
2020 is likely to be a bumper year for online misinformation, as the US Presidential election is on the way. To tackle the avalanche of misinformation the fact-checking platform Snopes has launched a crowdfunding campaign.
History of Snopes
Advertisements and the occasional partnerships have supported Snopes (launched in 1994) in funding its work. However, the company says demands for its services are greater than ever, and it has rejected partnership offers from social media giants. Earlier this year, the company walked away from a funded partnership with Facebook following reports that the Silicon Valley giant was forcing unfair and opaque working conditions onto its partners.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Vinny Green, Snopes’ Vice President of Operations said that the fact-checking efforts of big tech amounts to a little more than “Credibility Theater”, and the site decided that if it wants to tackle with online misinformation, it needs to do so under its terms.
“The fact that Facebook has more people on their PR staff than there are formal fact-checkers in the world demonstrates the disproportionality of the situation,” Green told TechCrunch. “Apple News and Google News don’t have the mission or the mandate to ensure we have a healthy discourse online. Someone has to step up who has an interest in making sure the content flowing through the pipes is credible and reliable — so we’re stepping up. But our only access to capital and reach is what we grow ourselves.”
Supporters can help the site through many paid tiers. A $30, one-year “founding membership” includes benefits like ad-free browsing and a members-only newsletter, with higher tiers (up to $250) offering accessories such as tote bags, T-shirts, and power banks.
The company wants to use the new funds to create fact-checking tools and initiatives. It wants to execute more original investigations such as traditional newsroom, create a browser extension that lets users quickly check stories, and roll out its news aggregator (which is due to appear in Spring next year).
“2020 is going to be bonkers in terms of debunking this information, but the business model isn’t going to get better,” Green told TechCrunch. “There will be increased traffic and it’ll be bigger in traditional metrics, but I think there will also be an appetite for a venue online where you can consume information without vitriol or spin.”
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