When looking at stories on social media, one can see how damaging fake news can be to those the stories are about, The only purpose of a rumor is to do another damage or harm. It is a non physical form of violence. Once out there, it can not be taken back. I wondered what the laws of Judaism said about rumors and false information. I did some research into the subject and found some interesting information.
One of the 613 Mitzvot or laws in the Torah states not to carry tales, Lev 19:16. It has been said that disparaging speech kills three; the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told, as found on the website Judaism 101. This includes gossip and slander. Judaism forbids causing any deception or embarrassment through speech. It is forbidden even if the statement is true. In order to understand this law from the Torah I wondered what the defiinition of speech is and if non-verbal forms of communication are considered speech. According to the website businessdictionary.com, the definition of non-verbal communication is: 1. Behavior and elements of speech aside from the words themselves that transmit meaning. Non-verbal communication includes pitch, speed, tone and volume of voice, gestures and facial expressions, body posture, stance, and proximity to the listener, eye movements and contact, and dress and appearance. Just because one is communicating in a non verbal way does not mean it is not speech.
If we are to put this definition into context with what is going on in the world around us today, it would imply that using appearance, gestures, facial expressions, body posture stance and proximity to the listener, if used to demean or cause a person personal or financial harm, is forbidden in Judaism, even if the statement is true. That would make cyberbullying, fake stories on social media, using ones clothing or appearance to demean another are serious sins.
There are circumstances however when tale-bearing is allowed. It is not commiting a sin if one is using speech to tell a story of another when it is a form of testimony. This can be interpreted as meaning if one is telling a story to defend oneself or another regarding legal matters or other instances when such speech is necessary.
Today almost everyone has access of some sort to the internet. Many people have social media accounts. Unfortunately some use these sights as a means of harming some in their community by spreading false rumors and tales. Our society has become dog eat dog, or in other words I need to be ahead of everyone else. This has become so consuming to the young generation that they are willing to through people sunder the bus so to speak in order to get ahead.
If this trend continues our society will be in serious trouble. Rumors affect the stock market, can ruin relationships, cause people to lose or not be able to obtain jobs. Rumors have a negative rippling effect and can cause an increase in poverty, homelessness and an unstable society and economy.
Before you follow the trend and post a rumor on Facebook or where clothing intented to annoy or embarass another, think about what that says about the kind of person you are, how you are affecting others and the look at the big picture about how that is affecting our society at large.