An investigation by BuzzFeed News found that David Mikkelson, who co-founded the site “Snopes” with his wife in 1999, copied sentences and paragraphs from news stories on other websites and published them on Snopes.com under an alias name between 2015 and 2019. He claimed it helped drive traffic.
Buzzfeed found that a total of 54 articles were published under his alias “Jeff Zarronandia.”
Mikkelson said in internal Slack messages that he did all of this to turn Snopes into a “platform for traffic-generating junk that people would complain about if it were on ‘classic’ snopes.”
Other staffers disagreed with his approach, but he did it anyway. However, one former Snopes writer told BuzzFeed that she didn’t comply with Mikkelson’s order because it did not follow ethical journalistic guidelines.
In response to the Buzzfeed expose, Snopes said they are retracting all articles published by David Mikkelson and have suspended him from all editorial responsibilities. Mikkelson told Buzzfeed he regretted his behavior and claimed he used the alias as a “stress-relief thing” after people attacked the site during the 2016 election.