The Surprising Cost of Our Epic Court Battle

How legal bills drain Snopes’ fact-checking resources.

Published Feb 22, 2021

Dear Readers,

Did you know that Snopes is 100% financially independent — and why that matters?

Financial independence goes to the heart of why you can trust Snopes to report the facts fairly and accurately. Unlike other media companies, we’re not beholden to angel investors, venture capitalists, or other major funders with their own special agendas.

Snopes has spent 27 years investigating urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore. No taking sides, no spin — just the facts. Our little operation has become the internet’s best-known site for debunking rumors, fighting misinformation, and ferreting out the real story.

Not surprisingly, we have had opportunities to grow faster, accept major investors, or even go public. But that would have meant surrendering some control of Snopes – and we weren’t willing to do that. In line with our values, Snopes has built an independent model for funding our operation by raising funds for our fact-checking work through ads, memberships, direct contributions, and merchandise sales. We don’t accept political advertising, and we disclose contributions of more than $10,000.

That’s why it’s so painful for us to see a huge chunk of our modest budget going to pay legal bills. Last month, we released the ultimate primer on the epic court battle for the future of Snopes. Today, we share a summary of our financials that starkly illustrates the impact of that lawsuit on our ability to stay independent.

How much money are we talking about? As we reveal in our annual financial disclosures, last year 20% of our revenue went toward legal bills — that means we had to spend almost one out of every five dollars in 2020 on the struggle to maintain our independence.

Seems like a lot? It sure is – in fact, it’s more than the profit margins of most media companies. And it has a direct impact on Snopes’ ability to expand our fact-checking work, take on essential projects to modernize our company, and compensate the members of our small team.

In our last message, we took a deep dive into this court drama. Like many lawsuits, this one is about money and control. Basically, the owners of a company that once provided services to Snopes have tried to bully us into doing business with them. They have used the courts as a weapon with a series of rapid-fire lawsuits that forced us to retain attorneys. This exhausting dispute began back in 2017 when Snopes lawfully canceled a very costly web development and advertising management contract with that company.

In lawsuit after lawsuit, we have stood firm to defend our position and do what’s right for Snopes. The court rulings so far have been in Snopes’ favor — but the wheels of justice turn slowly and it will take time to fully resolve this case.

Snopes is revealing the impact of these legal costs as part of our annual financial disclosures. This is where we voluntarily share where the money comes from and how we spend it. It’s part of the transparency that has earned us your trust over the years.

The lawsuits have cost us dearly, but we know we must fight and that we will ultimately prevail.

Snopes Needs Your Help

Will you help us stand firm against these litigants?

We want what is best for Snopes, and that includes staying independent. Thanks to your support, we remain strong and we have sustained – and even grown — our fact checking operations during this lawsuit ordeal.

Here’s how you can help:

Thank you for helping us remain independent.

Truthfully yours,
Team Snopes

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