AllSides conducted an editorial review of Snopes on June 2, 2020. We concluded that Snopes warrants a Center rating, though most on the team acknowledged that Snopes may have a slight Lean Left bias.
AllSides noted that Snopes doesn't craft headlines as "gotcha!" phrases like other fact checkers do, but instead always poses headlines as a question, which is a more neutral way of addressing claims.
The AllSides team was impressed that Snopes does not label claims in a binary of "true" and "false," but acknowledges nuance and complexity by having a number of labels for its claims, including "mostly true," "miscaptioned," "outdated," "unproven," and others.
Some noted Snopes seems to fact-check right-wing claims a bit more than left-wing claims. Others noted elite bias — a type of ideological bias — in Snopes' fact checking. Snopes seems to stand by people, not values, and will come to the rescue of the elite class more often than falling on the side of populist concerns and claims. Snopes also seems to fact check falsehoods more often than claims that turn out to be true.
Fact checking implies much nuance, and we noted that when it's a tough call, Snopes does often give a subjective interpretation slightly in favor of the left. For example, some questioned why Snopes stated clearly that Trump did not refer to coronavirus as a "hoax," yet seemed to contradict itself by marking the claim that he did as "mixed." Another noted that Snopes' claim that mail-in ballots do not increase risk of voter fraud omitted evidence that mail-in voter fraud does occur.
Another example is a piece about the criminal record of George Floyd, which had some left-leaning bias. Snopes stated: "On multiple occasions, police would make sweeps through the complex [Floyd lived in] and end up detaining a large number of men, including Floyd, a neighborhood friend named Tiffany Cofield told the AP. Additionally, Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, per the Prison Policy Initiative, and several studies show authorities are way more likely to target Black Texans for arrests than white residents." Note that the text does not indicate or investigate why police made sweeps (did they have evidence criminal activity was occurring in the complex?), nor did Snopes ask police for their justification, giving the impression the sweeps were for no reason and were unjust; Snopes also doesn't provide evidence to back up the claim Black Texans are "targeted" overall — some on the right say Black Texans are arrested more often because they commit more crime — and the sources linked to claim Black Texans are more likely to be arrested for drug possession, not all crimes. Here, Snopes is engaging in slant, a type of media bias when a source doesn't explore both sides or tell the full story.
Snopes features curated Associated Press articles on its site, which are somewhat balanced, but lean left at times. Some team members noted Snopes does not adhere to a set of values or morality in fact-checking claims; it simply checks claims for factual accuracy.
Overall, the AllSides team got the sense that the Snopes editorial team is likely largely made up of left-wing folks, but that Snopes does a good job of being balanced. While some examples of very slight left-wing bias appear, it is not enough to give Snopes a media bias rating of Lean Left; overall, Snopes does a good job of looking only at facts and remaining balanced.
On its staff page, Snopes indicates staff members are barred from participating in political campaigns.
Snopes is a website that says it conducts "fact checking and original, investigative reporting [that] lights the way to evidence-based and contextualized analysis," according to its About page. "We always document our sources so readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds."
According to its Disclosures page, Snopes is "wholly owned and operated by Snopes Media Group Inc. (SMG), a California-based S Corporation. SMG is overseen by a board of directors comprising David Mikkelson, Brad Westbrook, and Chris Richmond."