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There are websites out there (e.g. RateMyProfessors) where students can post information about teachers they had.

Is reading the "reviews" on the site, or writing such a "review", a violation of Lashon Hara?

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Wouldn't this be a question about reviews in general? –  Hacham Gabriel Jan 19 '12 at 0:16
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Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5. –  msh210 Jan 19 '12 at 0:21
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@HachamGabriel, it seems possible to me that reviews of people (e.g. teachers) are more restricted than reviews of businesses/organizations/schools/etc (e.g. restaurants, car dealerships, universities). –  Monica Cellio Jan 19 '12 at 0:40
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seems to be le'toeles. –  Shmuel Brin Jan 19 '12 at 0:43
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@HachamGabriel No, you were correct, reviews of "groups" of people, is the same as reviews of an individual person. A Company is the same as it's owner. –  avi Jan 19 '12 at 7:06

2 Answers 2

Assuming the review is accurate and constructive, it would be 'l'toeles' - for a constructive purpose - even if negative. An analogous case would be informing someone that the person they're doing business with has a history of dishonesty. That being said the Chafetz Chaim has a great deal on how to go about Lashon Hara l'toeles. The best summary I found is this hebrew page. You can also find the actual sefer here. Klal Yud deals with this topic. It's very complex and the CC goes into deep detail, so I suggest studying it inside.

As for reading the reviews that would likely fall into the category of 'public information' and be permissible. (Note that you still are required to try and maintain objectivity and be 'dan l'kaf zechus' with such information)

Also from a technical perspective the CC admits that the basis for biblical prohibitions vs. Lashon Hara are almost entirely directed at Jews, but discourages L'H against Non-Jews since it's an objective evil that should be avoided regardless.

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I will cite the source later... Gd willing.

Statements which are told to people to prevent them from being harmed, do not fall under the category of Lashon Harah.

Sites such as RateMyProfessors, are a classic example of when it's ok to say negetive things about another person.

Reading the reviews on a particular professor however, is only allowed by people who attend the Universities where those professors teach, or knowing somebody who does. Doing otherwise is lashon Harah.

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Another exception to lashon harah that applies here is "public knowledge". If three or more students already know this negative fact, publicizing it is not a violation of lashon harah. While I agree that it's not good middos (character) for someone to read through bad professor reviews just for kicks, I don't think that doing so is itself a violation of lashon harah. By that definition, no one could ever read any news publication without violation lashon harah. –  user1095 Jan 19 '12 at 7:40
    
@Will Reading news publications does run that problem. But thank you, I'll address those later when I have time to get the sources. –  avi Jan 19 '12 at 8:10
    
@Will You would have to be certain it is already publicised and know to all "כבר נתפרסם הדבר ונודע לכל" חפץ חיים ב:ד –  Michael Sandler Jan 19 '12 at 8:20
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Sorry - not just that three or more students already know - but that the information was relayed in a "public" forum - i.e. a forum of more than three people. I think that a "rate your professor" website qualifies. –  user1095 Jan 19 '12 at 13:05
    
So does going on a rooftop and announcing something with a loudspeaker.. doesn't stop it from being lashon harah. The fact that it's on the website does not make it known. What makes it "known" is how the information is originally learned. Someone telling a newspaper that the professor flunked him because his feet smell, is lashon harah. Repeating the fact of the professor announcing a policy that he will flunk anyone who's feet smell is not. –  avi Jan 19 '12 at 13:13

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