The so called “fact-checking” website Snopes.com is reportedly on the verge of financial collapse since one if its founders has been accused of using company cash to fund his contentious divorce and to pay for fancy vacations with his new wife, a former escort and porn actress.
The financial situation has apparently become so dire that Snopes owner David Mikkelson launched a crowd-funding website to solicit donations, according to London’s Daily Mail. Readers contributed more than $500,000 in just the first 24 hours.
Snopes.com, a website that’s been around since 1995, is sometimes cited by other “fact-checking” sites to support their claims. Facebook has even indicated it plans to use Snopes as one of its arbiters of “fake news.” The site has been criticized by conservatives for a left-leaning bias and admits it has no standard procedure for fact-checking.
Snopes.com’s founders, former husband and wife David and Barbara Mikkelson, have been embroiled in a lengthy and bitter legal dispute in the wake of their divorce. At one point, Barbara accused the CEO of using company money for prostitutes. Barbara Mikkelson also accused her ex-husband of embezzling more than $100,000 in company funds. She urged the court to limit access to David’s bank account because she said she feared he would drain the company funds due to his wild spending habits.
David claimed Barbara took millions from their joint accounts and bought property in Las Vegas. He has since remarried to a former escort and porn actress, Elyssa Young, who is one of the site’s staff members. Young, who was a Las Vegas escort until at least 2015, charged $500 for her services. She also starred in porn films as “Erin O’Bryn.”
Now, the Daily Mail reports, Proper Media, an advertising and Internet services company, has filed a lawsuit against David in California. A court hearing is scheduled for August.
In 2016, the owners of Proper Media bought 50 percent of Bardav Inc., a company launched by the Mikkelsons that owns Snopes. The owners took Barbara’s share of the company.
But now Proper Media claims David, in the last year, “engaged in a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits.”
The Daily Mail reported, “[David] Mikkelson counters that Proper Media – which Snopes also contracts for advertising work – has been holding the website ‘hostage’ by ‘withholding advertising revenue.’”
David pleaded for financial donations this week, saying Snopes.com “is in danger of closing its doors” because Proper Media isn’t releasing ad revenue or giving up control of advertising on the website.
“Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile,” David said.
“But while Snopes is built entirely around the concepts of transparency and truth, its founder, Defendant David Mikkelson … has engaged in a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits,” according to legal documents filed in San Diego Superior Court.
Proper Media accuses David of breaking his contract and rebuffed shareholders’ attempts to get him to control his spending. It claims David signed court documents in June claiming he is under financial duress, but he signed those papers while he was vacationing in Orleans, France.
“If Mikkelson is permitted to continue unabated as director of Bardav, he will irreversibly drain the company of important financial resources through personal and unnecessary expenditures,” claimed Proper Media, which also accuses David of “pervasive fraud” at Snopes.
Court documents from the Mikkelson divorce reveal David sought to be paid $720,000 a year.
Young describes herself to prospective clients: “I have an adult woman’s build and the soul of an indomitable force of nature burning within it.”
Her blog had “a specific focus on naughtiness, sin, carnal pursuits, and general hedonism and bonne vivante-ery.”
LaCapria’s day-off activities she said on another blog were: “played scrabble, smoked pot, and posted to Snopes.’”
“That’s what I did on my day “on,” too,” she added.
David Mikkelson has told the the Daily Mail that Snopes does not have a “standardized procedure” for fact-checking “since the nature of this material can vary widely.”
He said the process of fact-checking “‘involves multiple stages of editorial oversight, so no output is the result of a single person’s discretion.”
Snopes has no formal requirements for fact-checkers, he told the London paper, because the variety of the work “would be difficult to encompass in any single blanket set of standards.”
Mikkelson has denied that Snopes takes any political position, but the Daily Mail noted his new wife ran for U.S. congress in Hawaii as a Libertarian in 2004.
During the campaign she handed out “Re-Defeat Bush” cards and condoms stamped with the slogan “Don’t get screwed again.”
“Let’s face it, I am an unlikely candidate. I fully admit that I am a courtesan,” she wrote on her campaign website.
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