A startling new report from BuzzFeed News finds that the co-founder of Snopes, a website known for fact-checking and debunking fake news items, was himself plagiarizing other news outlets under a phony byline, his own name, and a Snopes byline for several years.
According to BuzzFeed:
...between 2015 and 2019, [David] Mikkelson wrote and published dozens of articles containing material plagiarized from news outlets such as the Guardian and the LA Times.
Snopes did an internal investigation, according to BuzzFeed’s report, and uncovered the plagiarized work, all of which it plans to retract. Snopes’ vice president of editorial Doreen Marchionni told BuzzFeed that plagiarism “had no place in any context within this organization.” The site’s editorial staff also disavowed Mikkelson’s behavior in a statement to BuzzFeed.
Mikkelson, who has been suspended from “editorial duties” apologized in a statement of his own, telling BuzzFeed he was sorry for his “lapses in judgment.” According to emails that BuzzFeed viewed, however, Mikkelson had encouraged other writers at Snopes (without success it appears), to rewrite other outlets’ news articles to boost Snopes’ traffic.
Snopes has long been treated as a reliable verifier of information online, but what BuzzFeed has uncovered paints a devastating picture of one editor who used unethical practices to try to gain more credibility, and more online traffic, which may end up damaging the site’s reputation as well as his own.