What's wrong with Snopes?


Continuing the discussion from "White supremacy acquitted Zimmerman":

The information at Snopes is fine, but the ad sleaze it is wrapped in kind of sucks more and more every day. Per XKCD:

And I concur with this guy

Snopes has always been obnoxious with advertising. To me it has always dragged down their credibility as a reference site. Back in the early days of annoying pop-ups it was mostly porn sites, malware sites, and Snopes that were doing it. That's not a good category to be lumped into.

It was one thing when they were a fledgeling site and were struggling to make enough money to keep the site going. Now though, given their popularity, there's no reason for them to continue that sort of thing. It's a shame that such a widely used reference site is run by a coupe of jerks, even more so when all of the other major reference sites (IMDB, TV tropes, wikipedia, etc) don't do that sort of thing. It makes Snopes really stand out, and not in a good way. I realize it's just two people hacking together a web site, but still, they could easily do better.


There are ads on snopes?


This reminds me of those websites that cater to college students, promising to write them papers that won't get them caught for plagiarizing, but at the same time, selling software to professors that promise to catch plagiarized papers... Very shady indeed.


If it's true they operate spam servers then bust them for it... that's illegal already. In my experience Snopes has not had unusually unpleasant ads. You know that, depending on how you surf the web, certain ads are more or less likely to show up via advertising networks. If you click on an ad (even accidentally) expect it or ads for similar products to show up more frequently - even on different sites.

At some point you will get pissed off at ads to the point where you'll decide to run an ad blocker. This is inevitable because it's only a matter of time before you see one too many "shoot the monkey to get suckered into our marketing scam" ads and decide that the advertisers no longer get the PRIVELIGE to show us ads (sorry marketers, this ain't TV and power users will always be smarter than you and able to block your ads on the web).

Some may hate me for destabilising what many regard as the only current way to monetise web content and free apps but you know what? I make adsense banners for a living. I am web designer. I run adblock on every device I use despite the fact that I'm essentially devaluing the content I make for a living because: FUCK THEM. It's my computer and I'll run it how I want to. When you take control of the situation these issues are no longer relevant.


I think the major problems with snopes are two fold. One theoretical and the other practical.

On the practical front, whatever measures I take on my own computer, it's not reasonable for me to expect my more gullible relatives to have the same protective measures on their computers. And I'm generally not going to do it for them. Too many.

On the more theoretical front, we tend to take them at their word for it and expect our relatives to take their word for it. They're really not accountable to anyone. For the most part, it doesn't seem to have caused many problems. Maybe it never will. Not a great habit, though, when we're trying to inject a bit of skepticism.


it's not reasonable for me to expect my more gullible relatives to
have the same protective measures on their computers.

Yeah, that's much less reasonable than sending your relatives links to avast! and Chrome and telling them why they should care about their own security on the web like they care about the security of their bank account PIN. Who would want to help their relatives out? That would be, like, effort and Ignorance is bliss, right?

You're not responsible for managing your family's computers, but it doesn't take much effort to send them a link so they can educate themselves. If they ignore your advice then at least when something goes wrong (which it eventually will) you can tell them you told them so.


They have antivirus programs on their computers. Plus the normal spate of anti-malware apps. It's not like I'm letting them jump into a warp core that's turned on with the safeties disengaged.

I set up linux boxes in my spare time and ran NoScript in Firefox for years. My pain tolerance is very high. Expecting them to put up with the sorts of things I would put up with is just ridiculous. I'd have to set up any additional precautions for them in the first place and they'd ask me to "fix it" (by taking it off) within a week of my having done so.

And without those extra precautions, you're a sitting duck for the next Google ad with infected Java. True story. Never felt so silly for going to a legitimate link from a Gawker site with Java turned on.

I can definitely see where that post look like I'm a Big Bang Theory clone wearing a "no I won't fix your computer" shirt to family functions and pointing to it whenever anyone asks me if the should let Flash update when it asks, but that's not where I was going.


Heh, cool dude, all good. Whether or not they drink you should always lead a relative to water, which is what it sounds like you're doing.

Provided they're running Chrome and an antivirus, they'd have to literally be ignoring all the warnings to get infected. I highly recommend avast! antivirus as it's free, auto-updates, doesn't break after a while like AVG tends to and has kept my PC clean for years despite all efforts to download as much from the seedy underbelly of the internet as possible.


I used to use AVG, then they jacked their prices up to stupid high. I use Chrome, so I don't worry so much about what I do, but my SO stubbornly continues to use IE. Just last night I had to uninstall a boat load of crap that he swears he didn't pick up surfing pr0n sites using IE. Thanks for the tip on avast!, I'll probably download it tonight.


I switched over to AVG on my new rig because of a "hey you kids, get off my lawn" issue that I had with Avast! after a few years. Still recommend it to the relatives since, as you mention, AVG tends to break things.

From a newbie security perspective, Chrome is one of the greatest things ever. That big red screen every time a malicious ad pops up is a lifesaver and has probably saved me more support hours than telling my mom not to install weather widgets.

P.S. Sorry if my clarification went overboard. The first pass of that post, I didn't realize that my original post was incredibly misleading. Then after writing two drafts I figured out what was going on but I don't think I got enough of the simmer out.


Haha. You should make him a Chrome icon called Pron Surfing and put --incognito on the target line. :smiley:

My SO doesn't care for Chrome either. She got an annoying Conduit-style bit of junkware on her computer about two months ago and I didn't clean it well enough the first time and five minutes later I was back over calling myself names and taking it off again.

When the revolution comes, they were the first against the wall[/42].


Getting back to the actual topic, some problems with the incredibly aggressive Snopes advertising -- which puts them in "pornographer" territory:


Claim: The popular urban legend debunking site Snopes is pushing Adware on to its readers. Status: True (No longer true since their shaming from Alex Eckelberry and this blog on 1/28/2008).


The one I see [pop-under ads] most commonly on is snopes.com. For me, I always see it if I am using IE


My understanding of what you have said previously about snopes.com is that they subscribe to an ad service that delivers pop-unders for which they are compensated. For the most part, I never see those with Safari or FireFox because of the extensions I use with them. I tried visiting snopes with Opera and got a NetFlix pop-under.

etcetera. I'm sure it's "fine" for people who run AdBlock, but for everyone else (can you even run AdBlock on an iPad?), Snopes.com is almost literally like visiting a porn site in terms of aggressive pop ups, pop unders, and every single sketchy, janky, unpleasant used car salesman Internet ad technique there is.

(Not that I'd know anything about visiting porn sites. That's what a friend of a friend told me one time.)


FWIW AVG is still free for the Virus/Malware Scanner : http://www.avgfree.com.au/

All antivirus offerings make it seem like you absolutely need the paid version, but in reality the free offerings of avg and avast are more than enough to protect most people (unless you're digging through the ass end of the intertubes, clicking on everything along the way).

Word on IE.... I constantly tell anyone using it that they're idiots, the main reason being that most exploits target IE since it's the most widely-used browser, meaning that even on a machine NOT running antivirus it would be safer to use anything other than IE.


If I delete the IE shortcut from the desktop, it might force him to use Chrome. I don't think he realizes IE is also pinned to the task bar. I may actually try putting a shortcut on the desktop for Chrome labeled as such. He'll be mad at me for months, if not years, though.

I've got to weigh this heavily. Clean computer vs. SO irrationally annoyed that I moved his cheese.


Fix a man's computer and he'll be happy for hours.
Teach a man about personal computer security and he'll more than likely get pissed off and ignore you.
Allow a man to ruin his favourite thing AND THEN teach him about network security and you can at least cherish the experience of being listened to.
Charge that man for your time and for some reason, he'll actually learn something.

[Your gender-specific pronoun today was brought to you by 'Men', "Obstinate belligerence for one million years and counting."]

Edit 3: {edit/*edit*): obstinate. the word was obstinate.


He's pretty much a technophobe. The computer is a means to an end, it's certainly not his favorite thing. I could charge him for my time, but that seems kinda pointless. This time around I consider us square because he cut the heat shield off my catalytic converter for me about a week ago. Coulda done it myself, but when he makes a promise, I hold him to it.

But yeah, I'm a big proponent of the 'teach a man to fish' philosophy.


'Charge a man to teach him to fish', doesn't quite have the same ring to it but yeah, working in IT may have contributed to a rather jaded opinion about this.

Maybe someone should offer to modernise Snopes' revenue streams and charge them a bunch.
When they see it's valuable, maybe they'll do it themselves?


I had no idea that Snopes was so horrendous about ads. I never see them, for the reasons others mention above. Hrmm, does anybody have any better suggestions for hoax-debunking sites?

Also - is there any particular reason why you folks (@IronEdithKidd and @miasm) don't just use Microsoft Security Essentials for your malware/virus prevention? I gave up on Avast and AVG for MSE years ago, because MSE was far less intrusive and less of a memory/CPU hog. And I've been installing it on all my techno-challenged friends' and relatives' computers since then as well. But I'm open to hearing reasons why I shouldn't be using MSE.


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