For two decades, Snopes.com has acted as a voice of reason on the Internet, making a name for itself by debunking rumors as they circulate. Founder David Mikkelson was involved in an online newsgroup that focused on urban legends; when graphical web browsers hit the scene, he started the site, he tells io9. "Since I was an early adopter, it quickly became the place where everybody sent every questionable thing they saw on the Internet," he says. "It became more of a reference and fact-checking site than just an urban-legends site." There are no big secrets as to how the site determines what's real and what's fake, Mikkelson says: His team just uses standard research methods.
Sometimes it's easy: If a rumor says Congress is making it legal to run frogs over, you just read the bill in question to learn it's not true. Other times, it's a matter of sending out a few emails and making some calls. As for the weirdest true story he's come across (and be warned, it's graphic): Yes, a guy really did cut his scrotum on heavy machinery and staple it back together with an industrial stapler. It happened, the site says, after "he had begun the regular practice of masturbating by holding his penis against the canvas drive-belt of a large floor-based piece of running machinery. One day, as he approached orgasm, he lost his concentration and leaned too close to the belt." He lost a testicle in the process, but didn't see a doctor for three days. Snopes recently debunked a story on a woman getting a third breast. (Read more Snopes stories.)