On the north end of Tacoma, David Mikkelson is fishing out the truth of the important and not-so-important questions.
“Is Baron Trump a chess grandmaster?”
As the founder and head of Snopes, a long-standing fact-checking company, his job, in part, is to get to the bottom of the rumor mill on the World Wide Web.
“Suddenly yesterday, like 20 different accounts all tweeted this old satirical story something is going on. Some Russian bots or someone is trying to push this for some reason.”
Now this story, Mikkelson said, was relatively easy to verify.
“He’s not an 11-year-old chess grandmaster. He’d be the youngest one in history, I think that would’ve made the news, not just some obscure blog.”
In 1994, Mikkelson started a small online space to dig into random conspiracies that he found interesting.
“An encyclopedic reference for urban legends, things like was Walt Disney frozen - those kinds of things,” he said.
As the Internet grew and theories spread, he followed what others found interesting. He was also able to dig into a multi-faceted space, the Internet, where people were starting to circulate misinformation.
“The 2008 election was huge, in terms of traffic for us.”
President Donald Trump led a movement that claimed former President Barak Obama was not born in the United States.
“I mean there’s ancillary evidence like the birth announcement in the Hawaii newspapers. I mean how do you explain that away - that somebody 47 years in advance had the foresight to plant these phony notices in furtherance of some grand scheme that was going to happen decades down the road,” he said.
Mikkelseon says he tries to not get caught up on whether the facts will change minds.
“You could probably pull out film of him being born in a Hawaii hospital and they would claim that was fake too,” he said.
For right now, on the north end of Tacoma, David works to try to make things a little clearer on the information superhighway.
"It's also kind of a way of blowing off steam of what's going on in the world."