The co-founder of the fact-checking website Snopes, David Mikkelson, is a self-proclaimed arbiter of truth. That is, of course, when he’s not reportedly plagiarizing.
A recent BuzzFeed investigation discovered that between 2015 and 2019, the CEO wrote and published at least 54 plagiarized articles containing material from outlets such as The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times. Snopes conducted an internal review confirming the allegations and subsequently suspended Mikkelson from his editorial duties. He remains an officer and 50 percent shareholder of the company.
BREAKING: Snopes CEO Suspended for Stealing Content & Using Fake Identities, Articles to be Retractedhttps://t.co/vDrQIqvWnh
— AmericaFest Poso (@JackPosobiec) August 13, 2021
“Let us be clear: Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” Snopes said in a statement. “It has no place in any context within this organization. We invite readers to let us know here if they find any other examples of plagiarized content so that we can apply the same treatment as above.”
Although Snopes will retract the plagiarized works, Mikkelson’s journalistic malpractice is inexcusable. What’s more appalling is that such mass plagiarism occurred on a “fact-checking” site that once worked with Facebook to “curb the spread of misinformation” and openly professes its commitment to the truth.
Mikkelson often deceived readers under a pseudonym he originally created “as a joke intended to mislead the trolls and conspiracy theorists who frequently targeted the site and its writers in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election,” BuzzFeed reported.
“The results of our internal audit confirmed that I engaged in multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use,” Mikkelson said in a statement. “There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment. I am sorry. I have given full authority to our managing editor, Doreen Marchionni, to take any measures needed to address these issues.”
This isn’t the first time the website has published dishonest work. In 2019, Snopes questioned the satirical nature of The Babylon Bee, a satirical news website. During the pandemic, Snopes admitted Donald Trump and the American people were incapable of delivering a vaccine. The website was “fact-checking political ideas and American dreams,” said Federalist Senior Editor Chris Bedford.
Concerning Survey Finds Too Many People Believe Snopes Is A Legitimate Fact-Checking Websitehttps://t.co/8Rggs3rNX0
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) August 13, 2021
The website knowingly misled readers for years, issuing fact-checks on opinions, censoring right-wing politicians and ideas, and pushing a clearly biased agenda while professing objectivity. It’s no surprise the site’s CEO is dishonest — but it is ironic.