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Snopes forced to scale back fact-checking in face of overwhelming COVID-19 misinformation

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‘Exhausting our staff in this crisis is not the cure for what is ailing our industry’

Image: Snopes

Fact-checking organization Snopes has been forced to scale back its routine content production and special projects, as the amount of misinformation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed its fact-checkers.

In a blog post that was later published as a series of tweets, the organization said the pandemic is “overwhelming” its small team and that it can’t ask them to ramp up productivity at a time when everyone’s personal lives are being placed under such strain. “Yes, publishing less may seem counterintuitive,” the organization wrote, “but exhausting our staff in this crisis is not the cure for what is ailing our industry.” Going forward, it said it intends to focus its efforts “only where we think we can have a significant impact.”

Snopes isn’t the only organization struggling to handle the amount of misinformation that’s being spread about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Facebook, which until last year had partnered with Snopes to combat misinformation, pledged to remove coronavirus misinformation, only for a software bug to start marking legitimate news articles as spam. Twitter, meanwhile, has been inconsistent in its approach. It removed misinformation posted by several high-profile accounts but later refused to remove a misleading tweet from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

In its announcement, Snopes offered some advice on how people could help to combat the spread of misinformation. It directed people toward official information sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) and asked people to support local news publications and businesses. It also called for people to support Snopes directly with donations and to lobby big tech platforms to do more to combat misinformation themselves.

As well as scaling back production on its regular content, Snopes says that it’s offering all of its employees a $750 cash bonus to help with any costs they may be facing, and it has said it will offer paid time off for people as they look after themselves and their families.

In the meantime, if you’d like to check out the COVID-19 fact-checking Snopes has already done, you can do so here.