In today’s fast moving news cycle many social media users have turned to the fact-checking website Snopes. Now a tool that many, including Facebook, use to verify a story too wild to believe is in danger of shutting down because of a nasty divorce.
David and Barbara Mikkelson started Snopes in 2003 and were the only board members and co-owners of the site under the corporate name Bardav. In 2015, Barbara Mikkelson filed for divorce and sold her portion of Snopes to the company Proper Media, a tech partner and now co-owner of Snopes. According to the New York Post, it is alleged that Proper Media has been withholding ad revenue from David Mikkelson and now the company is facing a crisis.
Earlier this week, David Mikkelson turned to the popular crowd-sourcing site GoFundMe and asked supporters to help. Mikkelson explained on the GoFundMe page:
“We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the Snopes.com web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site’s hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.”
The original goal of the campaign was to raise $500K and in just two days. Donors have given more than $600K to keep the website operating but Proper Media hit back at Mikkelson in court documents stating, “Mikkelson has for years been looting Bardav, to the detriment of its shareholders, first his ex-wife Barbara and now Proper Media.”
David Mikkelson counter-sued and states that Proper Media is “wrongfully withholding money owed to Bardav and effectively holding the Snopes.com site hostage by preventing Bardav from moving the site, advertising and other back end functions to another service provider.”
At issue is the makeup of the board of Bardav, which is listed as an S corporation, so its stock is held by individuals and not a corporate entity. Proper Media is taking the position that it could not be terminated as a vendor because David Mikkelson had never called for the full board to approve it.
David Mikkelson has stated in filings that one seat on the board was vacant once his wife resigned as part of the sale, therefore, he had sole right to make decisions.