back to article Snopes.com asks for bailout amid dispute over who runs the site and collects ad dollars

Fact-checking web site Snopes.com says it is “in danger of shuttering” due to a commercial dispute that has starved it of revenue. A new savesnopes site says Snopes is in dispute with a company that “will not relinquish the site’s hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place …

  1. phy445

    Fact checked?

    Is this true? Has anybody checked on Snopes? Oh wait...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Detect fact news'

    Detect when the sub-editor needs refilling with coffee :)

    1. Phil W

      Re: 'Detect fact news'

      Depends how you look at it. With so much fake news around perhaps 'detecting fact news' is the process of picking out the things which are true?

  3. Katie Saucey

    Snopes is not much more than a popular basement blog run by a very opinionated (ex) married couple. Half the time they use Wikipedia for reference, and on political 'facts' they just sway towards popular media opinion. Seems about right that either facebook or google should bail them out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When the Overton window is so hard to the right you see liberal bias in a bunch of apolitical internet myths.

      1. kyle elliott

        Funny part is, both the husband and wife that started it have been registered republicans for decades.

        The ultra right wing just labels anything that doesn't fit their narrative as "liberal bias", because facts scare them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The ultra right wing just labels anything that doesn't fit their narrative as "liberal bias", because facts scare them."

          Fair enough. Also, the ultra left wing just labels anything that doesn't fit their narrative as "racism" (and other pejorative insults), because facts scare them. You have no moral high ground there.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "You have no moral high ground there."

            Why? Both you and he have pointed out the blindness of ultra left|right but the moral high-ground is somewhere in between unless you think there's only a vacuum between the two extremes.

            Mind you, having seen the ire generated in these forums when US politics comes into play, many would be forgiven for assuming that there is only ultra left|right with nothing between.

          2. strum Silver badge

            >You have no moral high ground there.

            Oh, I'm pretty sure we do. AC.

            1. Big John Silver badge

              Yes, leftists are always certain they're the good guys. Around a hundred million victims could attest to that, if they weren't dead.

              1. Chad H.

                You sure you want me to count the right wing body count?

                1. Mad Mike

                  Left and right have both historically carried out heinous acts. I'm sure if you did a body count, you could make one better or worse than the other, but it's really irrelevant. 100 million would be a drastically low count for either 'side'.

                  The point is that extremism in either direction is bad. You end up with a Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin or Franco. What about Saddam Hussein? Was he left or right? What about Gadaffi? Again, left or right? The issue is extremism of any nature. Anybody who associates themselves with 'left' or 'right' is deluded. Extreme left isn't necessarily good and extreme right necessarily bad.

                  Both left and right have good and bad points. Look at the Soviet Union from its inception to its demise. 100 million would probably be the low side for their body count (either active killing or death by consequence), yet people think extreme left is good? Yes, the same's true for the right.

                  It's time people stopped being rabidly left or right and concentrated on trying to help everyone. Something neither extreme left or right do. Even extreme left is solely concerned with helping yourself to everything. Only have to look at any Socialist or Communist state, where there are still rich and poor.

                  Not saying extreme right is any better. That's the problem with extremes......

              2. oneeye

                Whats left out

                Hey John,

                Notice elreg left out the fact that the guy begging for money got caught with his slong in a strange pocket. Hence the divorce! And apparently the ex-wife has the last laugh! But, the leftist don't want you to know about their moral failings, do they? After all, elreg says, who are we to judge?

                Huh? Facts in evidence, conveniently left out. So, it's doubtful the big techies want to be associated with this scandal.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Minor difference being that the extreme right wing currently controls the presidency, both houses of congress, and the supreme court of the USA (along with a significant chunk of the media), whereas the extreme left wing is confined to a few coffee houses in coastal cities and small university towns and has absolutely no influence on the country.

            Nice try with the "both sides" argument, though

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Reality has a well known liberal bias.

    2. gandalfcn

      Katie,

      Presumably you also "believe" the KKK is a "libtard" organisation and GW Bush was a leftie communist Marxist?

  4. wolfetone Silver badge
    Holmes

    Who watches the watchmen?

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Dunno, coastguard?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The watchmen watchers.

    3. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Boffin

      The watchmenwatchmen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sorry, in these enlightened times, it's the Watchwomenwatchmen.

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Go

        @GrumpenKraut

        "The watchmenwatchmen."

        The WatchwatchmenMen?

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: @GrumpenKraut

          How much watch?

          Eight watch.

          Oh, such much watch!

          (from memory, corrections are welcome); watchbro --------->

      3. HausWolf

        watchymcwatchface

      4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        The Watchwatchmenmen.

    4. Mad Mike

      And there lies the problem. Beware of anyone who seeks to make themselves the source of all truth or fact. Some may be genuine, but many (most) are not.

      After all, deciding what is 'fact' or 'fake' is effectively controlling the media message.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "And there lies the problem. Beware of anyone who seeks to make themselves the source of all truth or fact. Some may be genuine, but many (most) are not.

        After all, deciding what is 'fact' or 'fake' is effectively controlling the media message."

        And don't forget that history is written by the victors.

        1. Mad Mike

          @wolfetone.

          Indeed it is. I'm sure if people read up on some of the 'facts' from history, they'll find they aren't so factual after all. Also, there's the hypocracy of which side you're on. How many times have the victors been lauded for something they did, only for the loosers to be abused for doing exactly the same thing. This is the problem with 'fact' and if anyone thinks any organisation can ever properly fact check anything, they're seriously deluded.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            I dont think snopes ever claimed to be some kind of Bullshit detector for any information you happen to have come across , including the "news" being spewed from countless agencies across the planet.

            They are about Urban myths , not the latest Fake-news-trump-twitter squabble

            They do as much research as possible and document sources etc . What more do you want?

            Plus some facts are, in fact , facts that are demonstrably true and no amount of "spin" will make them change to what you want them to be . Like the value of Pi for instance.

            1. Doctor Huh?

              Facts are... hard

              "Plus some facts are, in fact , facts that are demonstrably true and no amount of "spin" will make them change to what you want them to be . Like the value of Pi for instance."

              That is an interesting example. The last time I looked, pi was calculated to about a dozen trillion decimal digits. So, if I hand you a value for pi with 100 trillion digits, and it matches the known first dozen trillion digits, is it fact? You might be able to verify it, but then I come back with another hundred trillion digits. It is inherently faster to make up digits than it is to calculate pi, so I will win this "race" until my credibility is exhausted.

              I'm not trying to argue that there aren't facts -- I agree that facts are demonstrably true. We just get in trouble because sometimes the demonstrations require more time, effort, and energy than anyone is willing to put into the task.

              1. DavCrav Silver badge

                Re: Facts are... hard

                "That is an interesting example. The last time I looked, pi was calculated to about a dozen trillion decimal digits. So, if I hand you a value for pi with 100 trillion digits, and it matches the known first dozen trillion digits, is it fact?"

                If you hand me a value for pi that is 100 trillion digits long I tell you you are wrong. I don't need to know what those numbers are, because I know, for a fact, that the decimal expansion of pi is infinite and non-repeating.

                1. Michael Strorm

                  Re: Facts are... hard

                  @DavCrav; That's being pedantic; I think it would be clearly understood in this context that the value was intended to be accurate *to the number of digits given*.

                  1. DavCrav Silver badge

                    Re: Facts are... hard

                    "@DavCrav; That's being pedantic; I think it would be clearly understood in this context that the value was intended to be accurate *to the number of digits given*."

                    What? You are surprised that, when making a mathematical statement, the words you use are important?

                2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Facts are... hard

                  well , if we can detect wether news is fake or not to an accuracy of "a dozen trillion decimal digits", thats probably good enough for me, I dont need the hundred trillion.

                3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Facts are... hard

                  "because I know, for a fact, that the decimal expansion of pi is infinite and non-repeating."

                  Prove it!

                  1. JetSetJim Silver badge

                    Re: Facts are... hard

                    Any repeating decimal can be expressed as a/b, i.e. is rational. The others are irrational. Lambert proved that pi was irrational 250ish years ago.

                  2. DavCrav Silver badge

                    Re: Facts are... hard

                    ""because I know, for a fact, that the decimal expansion of pi is infinite and non-repeating."

                    Prove it!"

                    I'm a professional mathematician, so that's not that hard, really. More difficult: is pi a normal number?

                    1. Mad Mike

                      Re: Facts are... hard

                      @DavCrav.

                      Interestingly, proving something as a fact can be very, very difficult. Often facts are in chains. One fact relies on another fact for its proof. Then, that fact relies on another etc.etc. So, you have to start at one fact and move through all the others proving them to be able to prove the last one.

            2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
              Facepalm

              my bad

              Me: I dont think snopes ever claimed to be some kind of Bullshit detector for any information you happen to have come across , including the "news" being spewed from countless agencies across the planet.

              I take that back. Ive just visited the site for the first time in a few years.

          2. DropBear Silver badge
            Devil

            I'm honestly trying to figure out whether "hypocracy" is the rule of the lowly commoners, the rule of the mole people or the rule of medical doctors but all the ROFLOLing kinda makes it hard to reach a conclusion...

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coat

            "Also, there's the hypocracy of which side you're on."

            You mean like how the American colonial rebellion is seen by some extremists as a "revolution"?

            1. Mad Mike

              @John Brown (no body).

              "You mean like how the American colonial rebellion is seen by some extremists as a "revolution"?"

              At least one person got it. Yes, depending on which side you're on, facts or your interpretation of events can be different. Doesn't make either right or wrong, just different. So, where's the 'fact' there?

        2. SundogUK

          This war hasn't been won yet.

      2. cosmogoblin
        FAIL

        deciding what is 'fact' or 'fake'

        Have you ever read Snopes? Their articles explain their reasoning, provide sources, and evaluate the extent and validity of their assessment. It's not just the headline "True/False" gif.

    5. Electron Shepherd

      The Guarding Dark

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        The Guarding Dark

        His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes

        1. SteveK

          Re: The Guarding Dark

          His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes

          You forgot "Blackboard Monitor".

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: The Guarding Dark

            I didn't want to upset the dwarves.

      2. Kane Silver badge

        "The Guarding Dark"

        Imagine how strong I must be.

    6. TheVogon Silver badge
    7. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Who watches the watchmen?

      Watcher McWatcherFace.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not me, I hated that movie.

  5. Mad Mike

    Rubbish notion

    The very notion of a 'fact' checking website is pretty non-sensical. You only have to look at the media or any other website to know they always lean towards a particular position, no matter how hard they try otherwise. If Snopes want to make money (even to keep itself going) through adverts, this will also potentially create a bias. Being funded by Google or anybody else is likely to create a bias.

    In reality, people simply need to be careful on the internet and check things themselves. Control of what is 'fact' and what is 'fake' is the first thing a dictator does. He who controls the media message, controls the population, unless the population checks for themselves. The reality is that people are generally too lazy to do this and instead just tend to trust whatever is in their newspaper or news website or whatever.

    After all, the BBC used to be a bastion of good reporting, but over the last decade has become more openly and highly biased towards certain positions and also contains numerous factual errors on articles. So, people must learn not to just trust one source, but to seek out many sources and make their own minds up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rubbish notion

      "In reality, people simply need to be careful on the internet and check things themselves."

      Fact checking is hard. Who Knew? Sad.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Rubbish notion

        @Anonymous Coward.

        "Fact checking is hard. Who Knew? Sad."

        Yes, fact checking can be hard. So, you seem to be agreeing that people are so lazy now, they'd rather just have some organisation tell them what's 'fact' rather than doing some research thenselves? That's people handing over their minds and thinking ability to an organisation that they hopefully can trust. Of course, history tells us that none of these organisations can really be trusted.....

    2. jrd

      Re: Rubbish notion

      > So, people must learn not to just trust one source, but to seek out many sources and make their own minds up.

      Which leads to precisely the same problem faced by students of ancient history - many of the historical accounts are derivative and they rarely identify their sources (let alone their biases or the biases of their target audience).

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Rubbish notion

        @jrd

        "Which leads to precisely the same problem faced by students of ancient history - many of the historical accounts are derivative and they rarely identify their sources (let alone their biases or the biases of their target audience)."

        Indeed. But, would you rather know this and look at lots of different views of the same events etc. and draw your own conclusion, or would you rather than rely on one person doing it and then telling you it's 'fact'? The word 'fact' is black and white, but knowing how the 'fact' has been arrived at allows you to give it some position inbetween these positions. There's very little in this world that is 100% genuine, cannot be questioned fact.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Rubbish notion

      So, people must learn not to just trust one source, but to seek out many sources and make their own minds up.

      The problem nowadays is that most of the supposedly reputable news media just copy and paste from each other, - as has been shown a number of times recently where unsubstantiated rumour has been widely disseminated as facts - so finding multiple independently verified sources of information is almost impossible.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Rubbish notion

        So, people must learn not to just trust one source, but to seek out many sources and make their own minds up.

        Or you can just check The Daily Mail Online and believe the exact opposite

    4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Rubbish notion

      "The very notion of a 'fact' checking website is pretty non-sensical."

      We need a fact checking comparison website

      GoCompareFakenews.com

    5. cosmogoblin

      Re: Rubbish notion

      So, people must learn not to just trust one source, but to seek out many sources and make their own minds up.

      Many sources ... of course. Why on earth would you then seek to remove - or at least relegate - one as thorough as Snopes?

      I use many sources including Snopes and, if so inclined for the topic in question, follow their links and research their statements. This is made harder, not easier, if Snopes is gone. We know that all sources are biased, which is why good research involves many.

      By the way, years ago, the only newspaper in my employer's lunchroom was the Sun (I was on minimum wage and couldn't afford my own). Even in such a poorly-researched and heavily-biased newspaper, I learned how to parse articles for the facts behind them. Snopes is a much better tool for this.

  6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Let me help

    If they're short of a few quid I'll help them out. I'm about to get 35 million dollars from this Nigerian prince. It sounds dodgy but it must be genuine because he comes from The Internet.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Mad Mike

      @Alister

      "The problem nowadays is that most of the supposedly reputable news media just copy and paste from each other, - as has been shown a number of times recently where unsubstantiated rumour has been widely disseminated as facts - so finding multiple independently verified sources of information is almost impossible."

      I completely agree this can be a problem. Sometimes sources that are unverified can be just as good as verified. After all, who does the verification? It's about the totality and taking a judgement.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        facts and reporting on allegtions

        "as has been shown a number of times recently where unsubstantiated rumour has been widely disseminated as facts "

        Sorta. The power of weasel words allows you to lie in plain sight :)

        So saying "David Cameron is alleged to like pork" sounds an awful lot like "Cameron porked a hog" but leaves you freedom to say "I was just saying that those fellas where just saying that..." and avoid getting sued.

        So you can use the following phrases, and then follow them with whatever you want. It's been going on so long some people are hilariously crude with it:

        - There are rumors of... ministerial competence

        - Some people say... the F35 is a bargain at twice the price

        - It is alleged that... bacon is a performance enhancing drug

        - A senior government figure, under condition of anonymity, stated... you can't get pregnant when drunk

        You can also use semi-rhetorical questions to state false prepositions, like "Given Trump's history of eating babies dipped in hot sauce* and the lack of evidence of voter fraud, is the commission into voter fraud just another attempt at voter suppression?" which again sound all sort of truthy and factoid shaped, but aren't.

        * as anyone knows, the correct sauce is bechamel

  8. frobnicate
    Angel

    "in danger of shuttering”

    So they plan to pour concrete (facts) over each other?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "in danger of shuttering”

      Possibly - nothing's set in stone yet.

  9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Its a shame that such a nice little independant website seems to have gone this way.

    It harks back to the days when the internet was new and exciting and not trying to wring money out of people.

    It was about sharing knowledge and communication and stuff , not shopping.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better than nothing

    Since you have conspiracy sites throwing up

    "“Holistic Doctor, Working Against Big Pharma, Shot Dead By Police.” as a reading of the recent killing of an Australian in US by a jumpy cop.

    You need every site that can in plain words critically evaluate the claim. The big boys of Full Fact etc don't touch the barking mad stuff like this. They are busy with the huge whoppers coming out of politics.

    1. JCitizen
      Holmes

      Sort of true - but...

      we need at least two "fact checking" sites on the web, and so far I've not found one the qualifies as a true opposition to Snopes. Oh so you think Snopes needs no opposition? That is the BIG problem here!

  11. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Baby on board

    I'd forgotten about Snopes. I stopped trusting it when I went looking for some evidence one way or the other about the idea that baby-on-board signs were originally being intended as a warning to firemen - and found they'd listed it as "false" because the guy who started selling them in America got the idea after seeing them in Europe.

    The fact they couldn't see the blindingly obvious flaw in that logic made me doubt everything from then on.

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: Baby on board

      @caffeine addict.

      "I'd forgotten about Snopes. I stopped trusting it when I went looking for some evidence one way or the other about the idea that baby-on-board signs were originally being intended as a warning to firemen - and found they'd listed it as "false" because the guy who started selling them in America got the idea after seeing them in Europe.

      The fact they couldn't see the blindingly obvious flaw in that logic made me doubt everything from then on."

      Precisely my point. Although they may post their sources etc., how many people actually check it and make sure it all adds up? I bet most people just trust Snopes. That in itself is very scary and gives the website a validity way beyond reality.

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: Baby on board

        "Although they may post their sources etc., how many people actually check it and make sure it all adds up?"

        My lack of trust of Snopes started over an incident they dismissed as myth. It was about someone getting a Zippo lighter as a present and filling it by siphoning petrol out of the tank of his BMW, messily, getting petrol on his clothes and skin. He struck the Zippo to test it and set fire to himself and his car. He ran out of the garage and died on his lawn. Neighbours ignored him because they thought the burning bundle was a garden bonfire.

        Snopes said they could find no evidence and dismissed it as "myth". I had seen the incident reported in my local paper and the brother of the Zippo lighter victim worked in the same office as me at the time. I carefully documented what I could and sent them the clippings and references. I got a mail back dismissing the evidence because it was in a local paper and they didn't trust it because it wasn't published in an American local paper. It seemed terribly parochial on their part.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Baby on board

          "It seemed terribly parochial on their part."

          I suspect I'll never be forgiven for this but still, although I can believe the event occurred:-

          *citation needed* Name the local paper please.

      2. Notrub

        Re: Baby on board

        "The fact they couldn't see the blindingly obvious flaw in that logic"

        Err - I'm sorry I fail to see a flaw in logic. Unless you're referring to the idea that just because it was copied from Europe, it doesn't mean the original premise is false??

        It err does if the myths it is proclaiming as false refer to accidents in Canada/USA resulting in the creation of these signs.

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge

          Re: Baby on board

          That's exactly the flaw.

          The claim was that it was created as a warning to firefighters.

          They decided it wasn't created as a warning to firefighters because it wasn't created in America. The only way that logic stands is if firefighters don't exist outside the USA. Which I'm fairly certain they do.

  12. Notrub

    The sad thing about truth and falsehood is that EVERYONE is fooled some of the time, and some are fooled almost all the time.

    Most journalists are no qualified in the fields on which they report, and with the proliferation of blogs etc, most of these writers, when searching for information, simply find other blogs. This leads to the formation of bubbles where a false story becomes truth because it is repeated so often that after a while, it is impossible to find anything else.

    If you also consider that most people will only consult sources that they find they generally agree with.

    Finally, consider that when it comes to medicine, science, economics, etc the vast majority of people don't possess the skills to know whether the author is talking rubbish or not. e.g. a friend's dog recently had red eyes - I suspected conjunctivitis, but knowing nothing about dogs, I looked it up online. She was using cold tea to treat them (which I suspected would do little to help). I did find several websites that gave the same advice but I found their content untrustworthy.

    My friend asked me how I could tell that they were rubbish - hmm - difficult to explain. I have medical experience, having chewed through hundreds of papers for a PhD with a medicinal side to it. I know that with stuff like this, certainty is rare, so when I see a site that kind of just links treatments with symptoms, without really considering what may be causing those symptoms, then it's just a bit too neat to be real science. Particularly once I'd read a genuine site that listed multiple possible causes and showed that different treatments would be required in each case. But still, I'd find it difficult to write down a list of rules that would differentiate - my scientific experience tells me when something just doesn't sound right - you can't easily pass that on to someone else.

    I have seen attempts to do this, but bloggers are getting wise to this as well, e.g. it is common now to see bad science blogs using references, relying on nobody ever reading them (because heck, reading proper journals is hard) - I've seen writers claim x is true because of this research, when the actual cited research claims x is false...

    .

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I have seen attempts to do this, but bloggers are getting wise to this as well, e.g. it is common now to see bad science blogs using references, relying on nobody ever reading them (because heck, reading proper journals is hard) - I've seen writers claim x is true because of this research, when the actual cited research claims x is false..."

      And then, of course, you get the circular references where a claim is made without evidence, others cite it and the the original cites the others as "proof". This circular citing might contain many links before getting back to the original source, making it hard to find where the false claims originated.

      1. cosmogoblin

        This occurs in actual journals - somewhere in "Bad Pharma" Ben Goldacre gives an example of a "fact" that was taken as gospel for years because one person got a journal to publish some poor-quality science, a few slightly more reputable people referenced it, then more and more people referenced *those* articles - a snowball effect resulting in the "fact" being "known" by everybody in the field.

        Wasn't there also something written as a joke on Wikipedia, picked up by a national newspaper in the 10 minutes before it was reverted, then reinstated on Wikipedia using said national newspaper as a reference?

  13. rqd

    Seems like Proper Media LLC should get half of the money raised if they own 50% of Snopes.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A footnote that puts the boot in

    Bottom of p.8 of the linked complaint. I've always wondered what the legalese looks like to make personal slurs incidentally. Thanks to Mikkelson's new wife, now we know. Ouch.

    I can also see why El Reg declined to pick sides.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: A footnote that puts the boot in

      I'm certain I've seen cattier comments, but I don't remember where.

      And to think I used to respect Barbara.

      Ah, well. Just goes to show that everything on the 'net is ephemeral.

      Snopes is dead. Long live a.f.u

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019