Snopes.com’s co-founder and CEO has admitted plagiarising from numerous articles published by major news outlets over many years. He called the plagiarism “serious lapses of judgment.”
From 2015 to 2019 — and possibly even earlier — David Mikkelson included material lifted from the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and others to scoop up web traffic, according to BuzzFeed News, which broke the story Friday.
Mikkelson used his name, a Snopes generic byline, and a pseudonym to lift material without citing sources, BuzzFeed or Snopes stated.
According to Snopes’ senior leadership, he has been removed from editorial production while an internal review is completed. However, he remains CEO and a half-owner of the company.
Let’s be clear, plagiarism is a violation of our values and mission. The statement stated that plagiarism is not appropriate in this organization’s contexts.
Eight Snopes writers condemned Mikkelson’s actions in a separate statement. Former staff members indicated to BuzzFeed, however, that Mikkelson encouraged the practice to make Snopes seem faster.
Mikkelson didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press email requesting comment Saturday. BuzzFeed reported that Mikkelson’s behavior was due to his lack of journalism experience.
He said, “I don’t have a journalism background.” I wasn’t used news aggregation. It was copyright infringement several times. That is my property.
Snopes was founded in 1994 by Mikkelson and Barbara Hamel under a different name. It has received two Webby Awards and served between December 2016 to February 2019, BuzzFeed News stated. The site has been at the center of a contentious ownership dispute between Mikkelson, Hamel and the company that purchased his shares.
BuzzFeed News highlighted stories from a variety of outlets, including The New York Times and CNN. Six stories were published originally under Jeff Zarronandia Mikkelson, three under Mikkelson’s names and the rest under “Snopes staff.” Snopes claimed it has identified 140 stories that could have problems, with 54 of them including copied material.
Snopes also cited AP material which was not properly attributed. It didn’t specify which stories.
In a statement, senior management stated that Snopes was removing non-attributed content and leaving individual pages up. An editor’s note will be used for the outline of the issues and linking to original sources.
The statement stated that “We are currently archiving and retracting all offending stories along with disabling any revenue features on those posts.” “We will try to reach out to each news outlet whose reporting was stolen to offer an apology.”