SAN DIEGO — Fact-checking site is asking readers to save the advertising-funded sleuthing service, which is in dire financial straits. The company is seeking donations through a GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $130,000 of its $500,000 goal in a matter of hours.

The reason for the plea: Behind the scenes, Snopes is engaged in a contentious legal battle with San Diego-based internet media company Proper Media, whose directors hold minority equity stakes in Snopes parent company Bardav, Inc.

Established in 2003, Bardav, Inc. was the joint venture of Snopes creator David Mikkelson and his then-wife Barbara Mikkelson, who each owned one share and 50 percent of the company. The couple divorced in 2015. In July 2016, Barbara sold her stake to Proper Media’s five equity holders for $3.6 million.

Before the sale, Bardav had contracted with Proper Media for web development and advertising services on, with the companies agreeing to split revenue earned from advertisements.

In May, Proper Media sued Bardav and Mikkelson in California over ownership of the site, alleging that Mikkelson tried to gain control over the business and block Proper Media from its share of profits. Snopes countersued, arguing that Proper Media has not paid Snopes its share of advertising revenue since March. Motions by both the plaintiffs and defendants are scheduled to be heard Aug. 4.

On Monday, Snopes went public with its financial plight, soliciting readers via e-mail and a post on the website for $500,000 in donations to keep the site afloat.

“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,” Snopes said in a post published to its website.

In seven hours, the campaign has generated more than $130,000 in funds from over 4,400 donors.

In an emailed statement, Proper Media’s lawyer, Karl Kronenberger asked the media to “conduct its own fact-check of the fundraising plea posted today on … Today’s post only confirms Proper Media’s allegations that Mr. Mikkelson has drained the company’s bank accounts and is unable to operate Snopes profitably without Proper Media’s expertise and management.”

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