Snopes.com

Organization: Snopes.com
Applicant: David Mikkelson
Assessor: Steve Fox
Conclusion and recommendations
on 15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Steve Fox wrote:

Overall, Snopes is a fact-checking site that many people know about. It has a strong reputation by word-of-mouth and my guess is that a lot of their traffic comes from Google searches, such as “Snopes and Trump wire-tapping.” But those who might come to the site to search for items will discover a site that is not well-designed and a bit confusing with a large amount of links on its top-level and left-hand navigation. The site could use some improved navigation overall but also improved navigation to let readers know about the various items on the “About” page. Especially in the current political environment, fact-checking sites need to be transparent about their Methodology, Topic Selection, Rating System and Sourcing. My recommendation is these links as well as a link to the “About” Page become part of the left-hand navigation throughout the site. This information should be prominent and easy accessible so people can figure out how the site comes to its conclusions.

Snopes also needs to be more transparent about its Correction/Update system. The editors need to call a correction for what is and not hide behind the vague “update” designation. Also, the correction/update needs a call-out on the article and needs to be visually prominent, not buried at the bottom of the article which seems to be the current policy.

on 15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Steve Fox recommended Accept


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

http://www.snopes.com/about-snopes/

http://www.snopes.com/ownership-and-revenue/

Also document of incorporation e-mailed under separate cover

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

The evidence of the business status of Snopes comes on its “About” page. Unfortunately, the “About” page is not easy to find. The day that I looked at the page, the “About” page was 11 clicks down the page. That makes it almost undiscoverable. While Snopes is pretty well known, the information about its background as a company is not as prominent as it should be. My suggestion would be to place a like to the “About” page prominently on the left-hand navigation of the site.

When you finally do get to the page, it reads more like a marketing page with much of the copy focused on praise of the Web site. It’s not until the end of the marketing information that you get a link to an explainer on the actual business operation of Snopes. The Ownership and Revenue page is actually pretty informative but it’s really difficult to find. Snopes is hardly being transparent in making such information so hard to find.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

The homepage makes it pretty clear that there is regular fact checking and the left-hand navigation also gives links to collections or regular fact-checking, including a “What’s New” collection.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

In general, as explained at http://www.snopes.com/topic-selection/, we maintain coherent standards across fact checks by basing our topic selection on whatever items are most popular without regard to whether the issues they address are liberal/conservative, Democratic/Republican, religious/secular, or any other qualifier, and without making our judgments of our own about whether they merit coverage based on their perceived importance, controversiality, obviousness, or superficiality (or lack thereof). We strive to examine, explicate, and rate all relevant aspects of the items we tackle rather than simply assigning a monolithic truth rating that addresses only a single aspect.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Snopes provides a “Topic Selection” link on its “About” page which outlines its process. The Snopes editors make clear that they are unique in that their mission does not solely focus on fact-checking the statements of politicians and media outlets. The editors also briefly outline their process but in slightly general terms. The editors do a much better job or outlining how they maintain their standards in the “Methodology” section linked off the “About” page. But, again, this is pretty important information that seemingly gets lost. It should really be highlighted and easy to find.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

See statement at the head of http://www.snopes.com/snopes-staff/

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Under the staff page section, the editors make clear that staffers should avoid involvement with political parties and advocacy organizations: “Members of the Snopes.com editorial staff are precluded from donating to, or participating in, political campaigns, political parties, or political advocacy organizations.”


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

The editors at Snopes take a very simple approach when outlining their fact checks: Providing links to the original sources of information as well as to information that helps to refute or confirm the issues in question. Through the simple act of linking out, readers can go back and determine on their own whether they agree or disagree with the findings of Snopes. There are also cases where Snopes will do its own reporting -- making it a little difficult for the reader to replicate the reporting but in many cases the editors link to original source documents. Snopes makes a point in its “Sources” section in stating that it seeks out non-partisan sources of information and data in its research.

Additionally, Snopes provides a list of sources at the end of each fact-check as well as the name of the fact-checker that researched and wrote the fact-check evaluation.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Snopes makes clear on its “Ownership and Revenue” page that its funding comes from advertising except for one $75,000 award that the site won in 2016 from the James Randi Educational Foundation. Snopes also goes the extra step in outlining where its revenues are spent. It might be helpful to the reader however if Snopes outlined what type of advertisements were received during the course of the year.


done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Snopes has a page devoted to staff with photos and their biographies. The bios are pretty extensive and give readers a pretty good sense that professionals are at work on this site. And, while there is a good split on gender with the staff, there is a distinct lack of diversity. As a fact-checking site, Snopes should understand that people of color bring an important perspective and should make every attempt to add diversity to their staff.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

The prominent link on each page of the site is a “Get in Contact” link which allows the reader to submit a rumor, give feedback or ask about advertising opportunities. It’s a simple, effective interactive way to engage the audience. 


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to find the methodology page on this site. The process is outlined fairly well and the page lays out that there are multiple levels of editing – which is good to see. However there really are no specifics on how they go through the decision-making processes of which information is supported by the facts and which information is not. A little more clarity about the editorial process would be helpful here.


done 5a marked as Partially compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

As mentioned earlier, readers have a prominent link on the site where they can submit their own rumors for fact-checking. 


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Steve Fox.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

Snopes.com
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)
Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

The Corrections/Update policy is also listed on the “About” page. But, Snopes seems adverse to using the word “correction.” On the two examples given, there were updates – with one being solely an update box and one being a paragraph explaining the “update” – but all the way at the bottom of the page. Snopes needs to be more transparent about what a correction is and the correction/update needs to be at the top of the page, prominently displayed so that the reader can be informed about the accuracy of the fact-claim and so it doesn’t get lost at the end of the story.

I wouldn’t say that this policy is not “honest” but it needs to be more transparent. 


done 6a marked as Partially compliant by Steve Fox.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

Steve Fox Assessor
15-Apr-2017 (2 years ago)

Missing


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Steve Fox.