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Wikipedia defines "clickbait" as follows:

Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the "curiosity gap", providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.

Is it permissible to use this sort of technique in ads, social media posts, etc., to drive traffic to one's content?

I expect that the main issue would be, to the degree that it's present, tricking people through false representation of what's on the other side of the link. If that's the case, are there guidelines about how to determine what's too dishonest that could apply here?

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    Main problem that I see here is ona'ah - loosely translated as "oppression". Idea is that as a general rule, you cannot lie or deliver half truths to others. – DanF Jan 12 '16 at 22:26
  • I see 2 Halachic issues: Bothering/tricking users and inflating number of ads shown. – Danny Schoemann Jan 13 '16 at 10:05
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    Can I vote that we change this title to something like "You've got to see this question!"? :) – Salmononius2 Aug 2 '18 at 13:21
  • Everyone knows that clickbait exists and how it works, so viewers and advertisers cannot claim they were tricked. Also, most people who get clickbaited are just cruising the web looking for nonsense to waste their time with. No harm, no fowl. Just like people who for ages fell for misleading headlines were only the people looking at headlines. – user6591 Aug 2 '18 at 13:36
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    @Salmononius2 "You wouldn't believe the answer to this question..." – ezra Aug 2 '18 at 13:54
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[As usual] I'd like to point out, that the problem with גניבת דעת or הונאה is two-fold:

  1. [A sort of] "damaging" your fellow Jew, which stems from "לא תגנובו" and similar to it (ריטב"א חולין צד, א) which is בין אדם לחבירו and the result is that one has to repay (or to appease) the fellow.

  2. The "actor" transgressing multiple Mitzvot by himself and his evil intention, like ואהבת לרעך כמוך, תמים תהיה עם ה'א', והלכת בדרכיו and many more, that are בין אדם למקום and therefore one has to do Teshuva to repent.

To your question, if the original intention WAS evil it is already a sin [and therefore forbidden], even if the ad was never actually shown as per #2.

If the intention was sincere, the bottomline is that there's seemingly nothing wrong, because:

  • the rule in damages is "המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה" - the damaged side must prove his loss. This seems impossible in this case, as it is impossible with all kinds of ads - billboards, TV ads, radio ads etc. Can you sue a billboard owner displaying a sport car with a classy chick in front for stealing your attention? No, even if you made an accident that would be גרמא and גרמא בנזקים פטור.

  • Another point is that he might sincerely claim - there ARE some people who find it useful and that's my target audience.

  • Yet another point is that you're not forced to click, and if you do, you do it intentionally, usually guessing in the first place that that's a bait.

  • Yet another point is related to the customs of the place (דינא דמלכותא), as long as a certain behavior is widely accepted in the community (such as which is also a גניבת דעת) it becomes a norm and one can not claim "I thought it was , please return me my buck!


Just couldn't help myself leave such an interesting question without an answer.

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