Snopes, the popular fact-checking website that one might turn to for everything from refuting your crazy aunt’s Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories on Facebook to figuring out whether or not Slender Man is real, is in danger of shuttering for good. The website’s creator, David Mikkelson, who started Snopes in 1994, has launched a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to raise $500,000 in the midst of what sounds like a very sticky legal battle.
Like most websites, Snopes runs on advertising revenue, but due to a contract disagreement with a vendor, the team that runs the site has been completely cut off from that revenue.
Mikkelson explains in a post on the GoFundMe page:
We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the Snopes.com web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site’s hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.
Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.
As Mikkelson points out in the post, the need for responsible fact-checking is greater than ever in this era of fake news, as those in positions of power are actively using misinformation to threaten democracy as we know it. Mikkelson suggests a personal donation of $10 (although more, if you can afford it) and given that the campaign raised over $5,000 in the two hours alone it seems very likely that they’ll reach their goal. As far as the long-term future of the website goes, however, for now that remains unclear.