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Co-Founder Of Fact-Checking Site Snopes Plagiarized Under Fake Name

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The co-founder of fact-checking website Snopes has apologized for plagiarizing more than 50 articles and writing under a fake name.

David Mikkelson, a computer science graduate who founded the site in 1994, blamed the behavior on a lack of journalistic training.

‘I didn’t come from a journalism background,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t used to doing news aggregation. A number of times I crossed the line to where it was copyright infringement. I own that.’

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Following an investigation by BuzzFeed News, he is no longer allowed to publish articles on the page – although he retains his position as chief executive.

‘As you can imagine, our staff are gutted and appalled by this,’ said Vinny Green, Snopes’s chief operating officer.

Mikkelson acknowledged he had committed ‘multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use’, and said he was embarrassed to have angered the 20 ‘dedicated, professional journalists’ employed by Snopes.

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‘There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment,’ he wrote.

‘I want to express how sorry I am to those whose copyright I violated, to our staff, and to our readers.’

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Doreen Marchionni, the managing editor, has been given ‘full authority’ to address these issues, he said.

Snopes is currently conducting a review of the site, and stories from 2015-19 that BuzzFeed highlighted as plagiarized now feature an error message.

‘The post was retracted because some or all of its content was taken from other sources without proper attribution,’ the site states.

It then links to the plagiarized story, saying: ‘Read the original reporting behind the headline.’

Among the stories Mikkelson took verbatim were articles published by NBC, CNN, the BBC, New York Times and others. He also took wire copy from sources such as Reuters, despite not paying for a subscription to their service.

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BuzzFeed obtained Slack messages in which Mikkelson detailed his appr… (Read more)

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