Snopes

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All sources have a bias, and all make mistakes. And I don't care that Snopes was created by California couple Barbara and David Mikkelson, who decided to covert alt.folklore.urban newsgroup into a website. Despite claims by biased sources such as FactCheck and NYT, all claiming that Snopes is not biased at all, Snopes is far from the paragon of objectivity that some think they are. Here are a few examples of errors and bias.

Sitting for Seal Widow

This is a famous case where the Democrats were remaining seated during Trump's first address to congress in 2017, in protest of his very existence. As Ben Shapiro wrote, the Democrats unfortuitously decided to keep their asses planted for the 2nd standing ovation for a Navy Seal who gave his life (and his widow), and both PolitiFact and Snopes misrepresented their stories to not make the Democrats look as bad as their contemptuous partisan behavior had been for the whole night, or to make it look like Ben Shapiro had misrepresented things that he had not.

Omar Mateen was a Democrat

A few placed pointed out 2006 Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen registered to vote as a Democrat, snopes did logic-yoga to conclude that while he may have been registered that, that doesn't show that the registration was still valid -- thus he might have switched parties or candidates. While theoretically true, it's quite the stretch from just saying that the claim seems to be supported by the evidence we have.

Hillary and the Rapist, and Appearing Flags

This is a twofer:

One complaint was against Hillary for laughing about getting a child rapist off when she was a defense lawyer. This was true. Even lefty-FactCheck admitted it was true. But Snopes parsed words, inferred intent (It was just a nervous laugh), and went beyond fact checking into Hillary water-carrier status.

The other is when the Conservative News Media noted that the American flag was conspicuously absent on the set of the Democratic National Convention on its first day. Liberal media went into full-spin mode, scoffing at the criticism. And Snopes again, came along and played DNC operative instead of unbiased source. They "debunked" an extreme variant of the claim that all flags (except Palestinian ones) had been banned -- instead of the point that American ones had not been on stage. Then misattributed a day-2 photo to day-1.

Up-the-butt Bob

There was a famous raunchy Newlywed game story, where a contestant was asked "what's the strangest place you made whoopee" and she replied, "up the butt, Bob". The problem isn't that Snopes is wrong today, it's that they were famously wrong on the story for years -- and once they got around to correcting it ([1] for that), they omitted that it was a correction and they had been wrong before (badonya). I couldn't find the original on internet history sites (snopes had blocked them), so it's hard to show links to the error.

5 Holistic Doctors

Erin Elizabeth of HealthNutNews complains about how snopes wronged her, with getting lots of little factoids wrong, on her conspiratorial article about 5 Holistic Doctors found dead (later the number grew to 60). Not sure who I believe in this one, but Erin definitely went full vendetta on many mistakes she found not only in misrepresenting her article, but in others.

T.R.O.L.L.

Snopes had a whole section for spreading disinformation (called "The Repository of Lost Legends" or T.R.O.L.L) that was intended to teach skepticism, by telling things that weren't true, and seeing if people would figure it out. While being a bit condescending, and hurting their brand of being a trustworthy source, this is just a notable lore rather than something that proves much about bias. It more shows their questionable judgement.

Biased Editors

Snopes’ main political fact-checker is an "openly liberal" writer named Kim Lacapria, who wrote for the FakeNews site the Inquisitr, and has a blogger history of calling Bill Clinton the greatest president ever, and being anti-Bush, anti-Tea party, and anti-Conservative. Many of her articles on Snopes are obviously biased and partisan like: spinning Jimmy Carter's Iranian ban as nothing like Trump's more moderate one. Or implied that when Hillary claimed "we didn't lose a single person (in Libya)", she had only meant in the invasion. Or Omar Mateen wasn't a democrat linked above. Or that Facebook Censorship of conservatives, admitted to by Facebook workers, wasn't real.

But Lacapria is hardly alone in her bias. There seems to be many of her political ilk.

Unsavory non-standards

There's also cases where Snopes has some questionable ethics or non-standards. Just because David Mikkelson (CEO/Founder) was caught up in an unsavory divorce, or embezzled money to rent hookers, and they have no hard defined editorial standards, doesn't mean everything they wrote is crap. Some of it is fine. But the point is that I'm unconvinced that they're the paragon of moral/ethical and quality standards as well.

Spicer: Hitler didn't use chemical weapons

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Media and left reaction, "Oh my God, Spicer just said something that was inartfully worded but completely true, and he corrected himself / clarified in the same conference, apologize twice immediately, and the Democrats made the same point without tons of drama, let's make fun of him!" So I don't think it was a good comment. But the histrionics do more to prove the medias bias than Spicer's stupidity or insensitivity.

Snopes got caught red handed being biased in this one. Let's pretend we don't know what he meant, ignore prior corrections, and ignore cases where prominent Democrats said the same thing. Also known as "Lies of omission" in a fact check. That's not journalism, that's being bad at your job or partisan activism.

Rasmea Odeh

Their coverage of Rasmea Odeh was weak-sauce, until pressured into stepping it up a lot. So they can be shamed, but as they increased their quantity, their biases and quality have taken a turn for the worse. So you have to pick and choose articles carefully. Some are good. Some are not good.

Counter-balance

On the other side, there are those that investigate Snopes quality and find it good enough, or that they're perfectly willing (at least occasionally), to debunk liberal bias as they are of conservative bias, and that many of the complaints against snopes are a bit overstated.

Hillary

Just wander the Hillary Clinton many scandals, scams, or gasslightings, and see how PolitiFact handles them. They seem more like a DNC PAC, than objective journalism, both on issues they touch, and how they handle them. (Especially when you contrast them with how they handle unsupported claims against Trump). (People whine that makes me a Trump supporter, but I just care about using the same yardstick)

Birth of Birthers

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Some absurd "fact checkers" deny that Hillary originated the Birther movement, by claiming: it was her top strategists plan and staffers but not her personally -or- that technically the rumors predated her (she only popularized them), -or- just offering one of the source stories and making an excuse for it (while ignoring all the others). But that proves how sloppy and partisan the fact checkers are. This article details the timelines and lets the reader decide if it's fair to blame the Hillary campaign, and if the fact checkers that didn't expose this are incompetent or liars.

Snopes financial issues

While I'd far rather Snopes was doing the service they did earlier on, and not hiring biased editors to write partisan fact checks, and losing money doing it. They picked their path. And they seem to be suffering the consequences of CNN, NYT and others -- which is alienate half your uses, and you cut down on your revenues. Maybe more true when those users might were the ones with money (or willing to spend it).

I'd hope they'd get back to their purpose (unbiased fact checking, and leaving the fake news to NYT, CNN and WaPo to spin). But I've seen few media companies that could learn from the mistake of being too left, and pull out of their death spiral. Especially then their echo-chamber tells them, it's not their fault.

Conclusion

The point isn't that snopes is untrustworthy, or partisan (they kind of are, but no worse than most). I'm sure with work, I could find dozens more examples showing where they made mistakes the other way. Overall, I think they're fairly objective, most of the time, and most articles are pretty well written and pretty objective and they do a pretty good job of researching facts. There are some blatant exceptions to that, and when they behave badly, they don't always fix things in above board ways that would fit good journalistic standards.

So I use them quite a bit, and don't mind others than do so. But the many fair articles don't make the completely hacky and unfair ones any more legitimate. So skepticism is still required. They're no authority, they have made plenty of mistakes, and have plenty of examples of crap-articles -- and most of those mistakes seem to align in ways that wouldn't be surprising for California-based company, with liberal editors and left-coast contributors.

A little added scrutiny and dubiousness from those center or right of center, is more than warranted. And certainly, those linking to Snopes worst articles, and trying to use "appeal to authority" (or popularity) fallacies are no less wrong for doing so, just because most of Snopes articles aren't complete crap.

Thus as long as someone isn't trying an appeal to authority fallacy, we're fine -- and if they can see or admit the blatant bias in what they are, that's fine too. But if someone links to one of their bad articles and pretends that closes the subject on anything, they deserve the schooling that this article offers.

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