A “pioneering” debunker of fake news on the internet and co-founder of Snopes, David Mikkelson, is now being forced to defend his own, so to speak, authenticity.
Mikkelson’s business should be flourishing now that the narrative of a web engulfed in little but fake news is reaching its fever pitch – but he laments missing out on some of that action thanks to serious legal troubles pertaining to the company he runs, and his own behavior.
A report from The Seattle Times said that Mikkelson is fighting a court battle accused of financial misconduct and conspiracy, while he is at the time lashing out with accusations of fraud against his adversaries – a web and advertising services company called Proper Media.
Proper Media was hired by Snopes owner Bardav to drive traffic and therefore ad revenue to the site, and proceeded to do this for two years.
The relationship started to unravel when Mikkelson’s allegedly extravagant lifestyle and spending habits were criticized by Proper Media, who had managed to triple his site’s ad revenues.
Mikkelson then decided that Proper Media’s job was done, and wanted to end the contract, considering the company to be just a hire. But in the meantime, Proper Media became part owner in Snopes’ parent company, Bardav – acquiring this interest from the website’s other co-founder, Mikkelson’s former wife.
To wiggle out of a situation where his critics had a great deal of sway over him, and to continue with his lifestyle, Mikkelson “conspired to persuade two of Proper Media’s minority stakeholders to join Bardav,” Proper Media co-founder Drew Schoentrup and the company’s attorney Stephen Fox allege.
Mikkelson denies any of this, saying the two shareholders came over of their own free will.
Bardav and Proper Media are now expecting to battle this out in a California court, with a trial date like to be next spring.
The Seattle-based newspaper thinks that the outcome of the case will depend on whether the court accepts Proper Media to be a partner or a vendor to Bardav.
Meanwhile, Mikkelson has 25 employees working to debunk fake news, and even what they term as fake news sites – such as the Tennessee Star, said the report.