Major fact-checking Web site admits plagiarizing articles during partnership with Facebook

David Mikkelson claimed ignorance of journalistic norms while admitting elsewhere he was plagiarizing.
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David Mikkelson, 2004
David Mikkelson, 2004
(Stephen Osman/Getty)

A bombshell report at Buzzfeed on Friday revealed that a major fact-checking website was publishing plagiarized articles during a high-profile partnership with Facebook several years ago. 

Snopes.com, a storied urban legend-debunking website, published "dozens of articles containing material plagiarized from news outlets such as the Guardian and the LA Times," Buzzfeed News reports. 

The articles, written by site co-founder David Mikkelson, were run between 2015 - 2019, some years of which Snopes was partnered with Facebook to assist the social media site in fact-checking news and Internet articles. 

Mikkelson admitted in a statement to Buzzfeed that he had "engaged in multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use," adding: "There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgement. I am sorry."

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Mikkelson claimed ignorance of the tenets of journalism, telling the news service: "I didn't come from a journalism background. I wasn't used to doing news aggregation."

However, Slack messages reportedly viewed by Buzzfeed allegedly showed Mikkelson indirectly admitting that he was engaging in plagiarizing. 

"Usually when a hot real news story breaks (such as a celebrity death), I just find a wire service or other news story about it and publish it on the site verbatim to quickly get a page up," Mikkelson allegedly wrote in the message. "Once that’s done, then I quickly start editing the page to reword it and add material from other sources to make it not plagiarized."