Once, any negative article by them and people would point and say, "See, I told you it wasn't true!" But what is Snopes? What are their methods and training that gives them the authority to decide what is true and what is not?
For several years people have tried to find out who exactly was behind the website Snopes.com. Only recently did they get to the bottom of it. Are you ready for this? It is run by a husband and wife team - that's right, no big office of investigators scouring public records in Washington, no researchers studying historical stacks in libraries, no team of lawyers reaching a consensus on current caselaw. No, Snopes.com is just a mom-and-pop operation that was started by two people who have absolutely no formal background or experience in investigative research.
For the past few years www.snopes.com has positioned itself, or others have labeled it, as the 'tell all final word' on any comment, claim and email. But for several years people tried to find out who exactly was behind Snopes. Only recently did Wikipedia get to the bottom of it - kinda makes you wonder what they were hiding. Well, finally we know. It is run by a husband and wife team - that's right, no big office of investigators and researchers, no team of lawyers. It's just a small-time husband and wife operation run from their kitchen table. You or I could do the exact same thing from our smartphones!
Starting as a hobby, David and Barbara Mikkelson in the San Fernando Valley of California launched the Website about 13 years ago. They have no formal background or experience in investigative research at all, period. Though after a few years of gaining popularity, considering they were believed by all to be unbiased and neutral, after a while people started asking questions who was behind it and did they have a an alternative agenda? The reason for the raised skepticism was Snopes claiming to have the bottom line to certain questions when in fact they had been proven wrong. Also, there were criticism the Mikkelsons were not really investigating and getting to the real bottom of things on various issues.
A little while back, when the State Farm agent Bud Gregg in Mandeville hoisted a political sign referencing Barack Obama and made a big splash across the internet, 'supposedly' the Mikkelson's claim to have researched this issue before posting their findings on Snopes. In their statement they claimed the corporate office of State Farm pressured Gregg into taking down the sign, when in fact nothing of the sort 'ever' took place. In fact, no one from Snopes ever contacted anyone with State Farm. Yet, Snopes issued a statement as the 'final factual word' on the issue as if they did all their homework and got to the bottom of things - not!
Then it has been learned the Mikkelson's are jewish - very Democratic and extremely liberal. There has been much criticism lately over the internet with people pointing out the Mikkelson's liberalism revealing itself in their website findings.
I suggest anyone who goes to www..snopes.com to get what they think to be the bottom line to 'proceed with extreme caution.' Take it at face value, nothing more, nothing less. Use it only to lead you to their references where you can link to and read the sources for yourself. You are always better off Googling a subject yourself. When you do the research yourself, you get to know more sources you can come back to for other issues as well.
I have included a list of proven, time-tested debunking sites you may want to check out. Though you never want to rely entirely on the evidence of a debunking site,they are a good place to start an investigation.
By Tom Retterbush
Top sites to debunk Internet hoaxes & urban legends
Hoaxbusters- The site has been around a long time (since 1995) and has a good archive but doesn’t seem to be as current as it once was. It is a part of the US Department of Energy - Computer Incident Advisory Capacity (CAIC). Chances are that if you cannot find details of a hoax on one of the other sites, you may be able to find it here. Because it has been around so long there are some dead links. Hoaxbusters also contains a page of links to other hoax sites.
TruthOrFiction.com excellent site from Rich Buhler.
About Urban Legends- This about.com subsite has been hosted for ten years by David Emery and frankly, he has done a great job. He is passionate about finding and debunking all those rumors, myths, pranks and odd stories. I have found lately that I am referring more people to his site than Snopes because I like the format better. The site also shows up in more Google searches than the others indicating that the content is well linked and used.
Break The Chain- In 1999, John Ratliff was annoyed that he kept receiving the same chain spams forwarded to him over and over. I have been just as annoyed for just as long but he did something about it. Like most of these sites, John has plenty of healthy advertisements but no pop-ups. His site is getting more professional looking all the time. He is also frequently cited by the media when looking for an authoritative source on these stupid chain mails.
Sophos - This anti-virus company keeps a small list of hoaxes and urban legends but it is not nearly as complete as the sites at the top of this list. Their focus is more on virus hoaxes -you know, the ones that scream that you will wipe your hard drive and melt the motherboard if you open the suspect e-mail.
F-Secure - They claim that their list is comprehensive and the industry standard source for all things hoax related. Don’t believe it. If you click on their list of latest hoaxes you’ll see that it hasn’t been updated for a few years. However, it is still a good list to search if you don’t find what you’re looking for elsewhere.
VMyths- Well referenced by specialists in the computer security field, VMyths takes Internet hoaxes and chain letters to a new level. If you want to read what the real experts have to say about Internet hoaxes, virus scares, myths and legends, get it from Rob Rosenberger at VMyths. Unfortunately, their lists are not comprehensive.
Symantec- I have a love-hate affair with Symantec. I use their products but I’ve been burned by them several times lately. That’s a story for another post. Their hoax list is pretty good but seems a little dated. Maybe that’s because most hoaxes today are really recycled from earlier hoaxes.
Trend Micro - They have improved their list lately with some good updates. I like their style and formatting. Obviously a company that sells AV solutions has a vested interest in keeping their hoax list up to date. Check out their complete list of urban legends. It has some entries that I have not seen elsewhere.
Virus Busters - A short list from the University of Michigan of hoaxes and legends that keep coming back. Like the UofM, I have not seen a lot of new hoaxes lately - they are almost all repackaged oldies. The list is not intended to be comprehensive but is a good reference point for what you will see on a regular basis.
I know I’ve missed some of your favorite sites and would like to hear about them. Add yours to the comments so we can all increase our knowledge of what’s out there.
Snopes NO MORE The Self-proclaimed Debunker Of Urban Legend has been debunked