Snopes Co-Founder Suspended After Publishing 54 Plagiarized Articles Under Own Name and Pseudonym

Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson has been caught publishing dozens of articles that were heavily plagiarized or outright lifted from big-name news sources. As a result, the “fact-checking” site has suspended him until they complete their internal investigation.

BuzzFeed News broke the story Friday morning following its own investigation into Mikkelson’s articles. Snopes confirmed to BuzzFeed that Mikkelson published 54 articles with varying degrees of plagiarized material, some under his own name, some under the pseudonym “Jeff Zarronandia,” and others under the “Snopes Staff” byline.

In addition to suspending Mikkelson, Snopes said in a memo they will remove all “offending content” while leaving an editor’s note on each page that “will explain the source-attribution problem in the original story and link to the original news source(s) that should have been credited.” The company will also formally apologize to the news outlets who were plagiarized and archive, retract, and demonetize all the plagiarized articles. 

“Let us be clear: Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” the memo adds. “It has no place in any context within this organization.”

The staff writers at Snopes released their own statement as well.

“We strongly condemn these poor journalistic practices,” the statement reads. “No writer participated in this behavior, nor did any editors support or encourage these practices.”

Although Mikkelson has lost his editorial responsibilities until further notice, he retains a 50 percent stake in the company. He has apologized for his behavior.

“There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment,” he said. “I am sorry.”

As BuzzFeed points out, “fact-checking” sites like Snopes essentially present themselves as “[arbiters] of truth online, [bulwarks] in the fight against rumors and fake news.” There is thus no shame in reacting to this exposure of Mikkelson with a bit of schadenfreude.