Fact-checking website Snopes.com may be going offline for good amid an ongoing legal tussle with an "outside vendor", according to a statement placed on the platform's website. The service has now turned directly to its readers in an attempt to raise the necessary operating costs.
The current stalemate appears to be centred on an internal business dispute with an unnamed third party company which is allegedly refusing to "relinquish control" of the popular myth-busting website after a contract came to an end, meaning bills – and salaries – cannot be paid.
Snopes' statement is kept intentionally vague, likely due to the fact that a turbulent legal case over the ownership of the website remains ongoing.
Since its inception in 1994, the website has relied on digital advertising to stay solvent, typically choosing to shun sponsorships and outside investment.
Now, it claims it is essentially being held "hostage". A statement reads: "We have been cut off from our historic source of advertising income.
"We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status.
"The vendor will not relinquish the site's hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us."
The Snopes GoFundMe page to accept donations was created on 23 July by its founder David Mikkelson. Within the first 19 hours, more than 160,000 people had raised $453,792 of its initial $500,000 goal.
The Snopes statement read: "Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.
"We need our community now more than ever, as it is only through your support that Snopes.com can remain the community and resource we all know and love," it added. In an update to donors on 25 July, Mikkelson said he was "grateful and overwhelmed" by the support.
He also pledged to urgently "tackle the task of dispelling some misinformation and conjecture surrounding our campaign." No additional statements had been released at the time of writing, however the total amount of funds received continued to grow.