Snopes on COVID-19 Fact-Checking

The coronavirus pandemic exposes just how under-resourced we have let the fact-checking industry become.

Published March 20, 2020

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Dear Readers,

The magnitude of misinformation spreading in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming our small team.

We’re seeing record web traffic as people educate themselves on the coronavirus. It’s given us a buoy to cling to after a decade of sinking advertising revenues in an eroding news industry.

At the same time, we’re seeing scores of people, in a rush to find any comfort, certainty, or hope for a cure, make things worse as they share (sometimes dangerous) misinformation. We are doing everything we can to respond: to get the facts, to amplify voices of credible experts — to reach over the side of our tiny boat and offer a hand.

But who will keep the fact-checkers afloat?

Our industry cannot operate as if this is just another breaking news event. We cannot ask our employees to ramp up productivity at the same time the rest of their lives spin out into more disorientating and distressing states. It is our responsibility to put their health and safety first.

For that reason, in addition to encouraging social distancing (we were already a 100% remote work company), Snopes has:

  • Rolled out several new policies allowing all employees to take the time they need to care for themselves and their family — all paid, and without impacting their accumulated time-off.
  • Distributed unconditional cash bonuses of $750.00 to help our employees defray some immediate costs they face amid this public crisis.
  • Begun scaling back routine content production and special projects, focusing our efforts only where we think we can have significant impact given our strained resources (e.g., we are temporarily reducing our Daily Debunker newsletter delivery schedule from six to two days per week).

We recognize there has never been a greater need for the service our fact-checkers provide, so publishing less may seem counterintuitive. But exhausting our staff in this crisis is not the cure for what is ailing our industry.

We don’t have all the answers right now, but we do know we need everyone’s help. Here’s where you can begin:

  • Please: Keep checking with CDC or WHO for the latest guidance on how to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell your friends to do the same.
  • Support Snopes directly as a Founding Member. The greater the resources we have, the more fact-checkers we can hire. Many fact-checkers have similar programs.
  • Get the word out that we need help. Alert advertisers, lenders, investors, influencers, and anyone else you know that Snopes and other fact-checkers need support. If you can help support our mission, contact us immediately.
  • Support your local news publications and small businesses as best you can. They need you now more than ever.
  • Demand that companies like Facebook and Google do more right now to shut down harmful misinformation on their platforms. Having partnered with Facebook previously, we have a lot of ideas we wish they’d listen to on how to improve their efforts, but above all: They could compensate fact-checkers in ways that are proportionate to the value we provide.

We all have a responsibility to each other and our community to fight misinformation. Anything you do will make a difference.

Take care of each other. Be safe. And keep on fact-checking.

Truthfully yours,
Team Snopes

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