Since launching in 1994, Snopes has managed to outlast the majority of web dinosaurs founded in the Internet’s salad days. But legal woes and company infighting threaten to take down the fact-checking site after more than 20 years of internet sleuthing, reports Poynter. The company posted a plea to its readers Monday, writing that it was in danger of “closing its doors” due to a vendor that is holding the site and its advertising revenue “hostage.” The open letter reminds users of the importance of fact-checking in the era of #fakenews and links to a GoFundMe campaign started by founder and CEO David Mikkelson that asks for a suggested donation of $10. The viral campaign has raised nearly half of its $500,000 goal from thousands of patrons in its first nine hours.
While Snopes’ letter doesn’t go into specifics about the mysterious vendor and its legal woes, the Atlantic offers a deep dive into the drama that landed Mikkelson’s parent company, Bardav, into this position. Married founders Barbara and David Mikkelson divorced in 2015, the same summer the couple joined forces with San Diego startup Proper Media to help modernize the site’s ancient backend and provide other services. A year later, Barbara ended up selling her 50% Bardav stake to be split between Proper Media’s owners. But a messy dispute prompted David Mikkelson to sever ties with Proper Media. He claims that though the company’s contract has been terminated, it “continues to insert [its] own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.” Meanwhile, Proper Media’s complaint claims otherwise, and its lawyer snapped back at Mikkelson’s campaign by asserting that Proper Media “is a 50% co-owner of Bardav.” (This story on how the debunking site began is worth a read.)