Snopes

Snopes, officially the Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a web site discussing urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of uncertain or questionable origin.

It is the best-known resource for validating and debunking such stories in American popular culture, receiving 300,000 visits a day.

The website is run by Barbara and David Mikkelson, a California couple who met on the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup, an early internet meeting place for the discussion of urban legends. The site is organized according to topic and includes a message board where stories and pictures of questionable veracity may be posted. The Mikkelsons founded the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society and Snopes.com.

David Mikkelson used the username ‘snopes’ (the name of a family of often unpleasant people in the works of William Faulkner) in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban. Barbara Hamel was also a prolific poster. The Mikkelsons created the Snopes site in 1995.

The Mikkelsons have stressed the reference portion of the name Urban Legends Reference Pages, indicating that their intention is not merely to dismiss or confirm misconceptions and rumors but to provide evidence for such debunkings and confirmations as well. Where appropriate, pages are generally marked ‘undetermined’ or ‘unverifiable’ if the Mikkelsons feel there is not enough evidence to either support or disprove a given claim.

Snopes receives complaints of both liberal and conservative bias, but insists that it applies the same debunking standards to all political stories. Political watchdog, FactCheck.com reviewed a sample of Snopes’ responses to political rumors regarding George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and found them to be free from bias in all cases.

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