Snopes.com co-founder pleas for help, says the website may shut down for good

Snopes.com co-founder pleas for help, says the website may shut down for good

2004 Photo: David Mikkelson next to his computer monitor with a doctored storm photo in which two extra tornados were added to the original which had only one.

Snopes.com, which bills itself as “one of the Internet’s oldest and most popular fact-checking sites,” is in dire financial straits and hopes to raise $500,000 it says is needed to keep the site afloat, according to a GoFundMe linked to by Snopes.

Snopes' GoFundMe says the site has been "cut off from our historic source of advertising income." Co-founder David Mikkelson founded the site with his then-wife Barbara Mikkelson in 1994, according to the page, incorporating Bardav, Inc. — a name using a combination of their first names — as a company to control the site.

Content Continues Below

The debt stems from a legal battle between Bardav, now managed exclusively by David Mikkelson, and a web services provider, Proper Media, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When David and Barbara Mikkelson divorced in 2016, Barbara left Bardev, Inc. and sold her 50 percent equity interest in Snopes to Proper Media.

David Mikkelson says that while he maintains control of the site’s content, he says the site is otherwise held “hostage” by the media company, despite the fact that he’s attempted to “end” the contract with them:

[The] 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.

The GoFundMe states that money raised will go to “continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees).”

Bardav, Inc. was sued by Proper Media this year, shortly after Mikkelson moved to end the contract Bardav, Inc. held with Proper Media. Proper Media claims that they’re the victims of “a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits.”

The story of Snopes is deeply tied into the Mikkelson’s divorce, which accounts say was exacerbated by managing the site.

A Daily Mail investigation says that after he and Barbara split in 2015, David Mikkelson married a former escort and porn actress who he promptly hired to work for Snopes.

Barbara claims David embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for exotic trips and prostitutes and insisted on a raise of $120,000, giving himself a $360,000 annual salary. David Mikkelson says his ex-wife took millions of dollars from their joint account to buy property in Las Vegas.

They settled their divorce in 2015 after initially struggling to agree on an arbiter, according to the Mail.