If an individual writes a document for public consumption anonymously or pseudonymously and either explicitly or presumably desires to remain anonymous, is there a Halachic issue with publicly unmasking the author, or with publicly assembling information about the author toward the goal of unmasking them?

This activity ("doxing," in Internet slang) is practiced in various Internet forums, and the ethics thereof are a subject of controversy. It's potentially relevant on a forum like this one that values contributions from pseudonymous authors.

If sources address this activity, do they distinguish regarding the nature of the material that was anonymously authored - whether it was Torah, objectionable, controversial, etc.?

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  • @IsaacMoses Are you encouraging me edit ba's comment at the end of my post into my post?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 4:21
  • @DoubleAA You could do so (and also your Aruch Hashulchan citation), or someone could post a separate answer. Anyway, what, you look down at the potential for a rep bonus now that you're a mod? :)
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 4:25
  • @IsaacMoses No but if you hadn't seen it and would prefer to ask me to do so from there (and I'll likely comply) I might be willing to refund your 50 points which would have been offered in error. More than one of us would be happy to see you reach 20k and giving me bounties wouldn't be helping.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 4:26
  • @DoubleAA My hopes are not so circumscribed. Maybe a contemporary posek has addressed this question, or something like it, directly. I don't know.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 4:28

2 Answers 2


The Talmud (Yoma 4b) relates:

ויקרא אל משה וידבר למה הקדים קריאה לדיבור? לימדה תורה דרך ארץ, שלא יאמר אדם דבר לחבירו אלא אם כן קורהו. מסייע ליה לרבי חנינא, דאמר רבי חנינא: לא יאמר אדם דבר לחבירו אלא אם כן קורהו. לאמר אמר רבי (מוסיא בר בריה דרבי מסיא משמיה דרבי מוסיא) +מסורת הש"ס: [מנסיא]+ רבה: מניין לאומר דבר לחבירו שהוא בבל יאמר, עד שיאמר לו לך אמור - שנאמר +ויקרא א+ וידבר ה' אליו מאהל מועד לאמר.‏
And the Lord called unto Moses, and spoke unto him; why does Scripture mention the call before the speech? — The Torah teaches us good manners: a man should not address his neighbour without having first called him. This supports the view of R. Hanina, for R. Hanina said: No man shall speak to his neighbour unless he calls him first to speak to him. Rabbah said: Whence do we know that if a man had said something to his neighbour the latter must not spread the news without the informant's telling him ‘Go and say it’? From the scriptural text: The Lord spoke to him out of the tent of meeting, lemor [saying] . (Translation from Soncino)

If one is forbidden to say over something until one knows for sure that he can, all the more so one should be forbidden to do so if he knows he cannot.

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    Would there not be a difference between repeating something told in confidence and revealing who wrote something? Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 17:16
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    @GershonGold Anyone who knows in order to revel it has effectively been told not to repeat it because the author told everyone not to repeat it.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 17:16
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    @yoel, this answer seems to be treating identity as a particular kind of confidential information rather than as protected by some special "right."
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 17:18
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    If I was not told, however I figured it out would that not be different? Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 17:19
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    @GershonGold, it's not clear in the language of this Gemara whether the case is one where the first person said not to repeat the information or one where the first person merely hasn't yet explicitly given permission to do so. I wonder if it's interpreted in later Halachic sources.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 17:21

According to an article on "Internet Privacy in Halacha" by R' Asher Meir in the Winter 2014 issue of Jewish Action, it is forbidden to publicize someone's secret identity.

R' Meir says that revealing someone else's private information violates the prohibition in Vayikra 19:16:

... לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ

You shall not go around as a gossipmonger amidst your people.

He notes that Rashi, there, says that the word "רָכִיל," "gossipmonger," is etymologically related to the verb "לְרַגֵּל," "to spy," and that this verse prohibits spying to obtain private information and then going around telling it to people. According to R' Meir, revealing private information about people online is included in the prohibition, and "the only real difference between now and the time of Matan Torah is that the potential for harm is multiplied when gossip reaches the Internet, where it can easily 'go viral.'"

R' Meir goes on to provide some intriguingly-applied sources to demonstrate that even digging up someone's private information without disclosing it to others is "halachically questionable." I recommend taking a look at the whole article for his complete treatment.

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