Snopes lawsuit latest: Judge orders disputed cash can flow to fact-checking site

Founders and admen continue their legal fight

Snopes creator David Mikkelson has secured half a million dollars to keep the iconic fact-checking website Snopes afloat, thanks to a judge’s ruling in an ongoing court battle.

Mikkelson cannot be removed as chief exec of Snopes.com, while the disputed $500k will be released to the firm that controls Snopes, Bardav Inc.

“Proper Media does not have standing to seek removal of Mikkelson. … Plaintiffs have not presented sufficient evidence to prove fraudulent acts,” wrote Judge Judith Hayes of the San Diego Superior Court in her tentative ruling, published late yesterday.

The judge also ruled that Proper Media, the ad firm which is in dispute with Bardav and which had withheld the $500k, could continue with its claim for breach of contract against Bardav. Vincent Green, one of Proper Media’s five directors, is accused by Proper of conspiring with Mikkelson to block the rest of Proper Media’s directors from being able to seize full control of Bardav – and thus Snopes.

In addition, the source code and templates for Snopes.com will remain under control of Proper Media, despite Mikkelson applying for them to be transferred to Bardav.

Snopes, as all internet users know, is the original fact-checking website. It mostly debunks viral rumours, including such tales as cats being accidentally fired at jet engines during bird strike tests and social media sites demanding upfront payments unless gullible users forward on a particular message.

As we reported in July, Snopes is in trouble thanks to a battle between two companies claiming ownership of the iconic website. Its parent company, Bardav, is being challenged by its advertising partner Proper Media for control of the business.

Proper Media, while placing ads on Snopes and collecting the revenue, was said to be withholding “at least” $500,000 from Bardav. Proper claims ownership of 50 per cent of Snopes on the basis that Mikkelson’s ex-wife sold the firm her stake in the site when she and Mikkelson divorced in 2016. Mikkelson himself owns the other half, which is not in dispute.

Barbara Mikkelson’s stake, the newspaper reports, was split between Proper’s five directors in varying proportions. Proper Media claims that its directors’ shareholdings amount to making it “a beneficial owner of shares” in Snopes, entitling it to a seat on Snopes’ board. Mikkelson says that the five individuals each hold minority stakes and no board seat is due.

The case continues, with more hearings due to take place later today. ®

PROPER MEDIA LLC VS BARDAV INC is being heard in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

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