I'm building an Android app featuring Israeli news. It is largely based on feeds that automatically takes material written by news services and bloggers who are not shomer Shabbos (but no one is writing specifically for the app). The app does make a little money from ads, but I'm not selling anything per-se. The app has actually been live for quite a while - it's tough to tell, but at the moment most users are probably not Jewish.

Is it permissible to include such feeds as some material is inevitably written on Shabbos and inevitably some users will 'download' this material before shabbos ends? Note that the material will only reach the user's phone when the (not-necessarily-Jewish) user decides to load the app.

Additionally, are there any issues in providing such content with regards to any Lashon Hora contained within?

The topic of operating apps/sites on Shabbat is complex, an entire book (Commerce and Shabbos) was written on it by R Yosef Y Kushner.

In general it is permitted to write an app that will maybe be used by Jews on Shabbat (and there are thousands like this of course). R Shlomo Aviner writes that, regarding "Do not place a stumbling block", if one is uncertain that the person will transgress the Halachah, we are "tolim" (literally "hanging" on the assumption) that he will not violate it (Mishnah Gittin 5:9) (see bottom of here).

We also know that

  • some sites operated by religious Jews (e.g., B&H Photo) are operating on Shabbat with the commerce function disabled (i.e., you can browse but not buy)
  • some sites operated by religious Jews (e.g., artscroll) shut down entirely

R Kushner explicitly addresses a number of relevant topics for your app

  • Operating an e-commerce website on Shabbat (p. 183): he writes that according to the overwhelming majority of poskim, a Jewish-owned website may remain open on Shabbat, for reasons similar to those explained here (which would explain B&H)
  • Profiting from online advertising on Shabbat (p. 200): permitted if the earnings generated from ads run on Shabbat are received by the Jewish owner together with the money earned from advertising during the weeks
  • Operating a website used by a majority of Jews (p. 190): he writes that it would be better to avoid leaving the website open on Shabbat (which would explain artscroll) - I understand this is not your case but wanted to be complete

So there are likely to be poskim who will permit or prohibit based on the specifics of the case. But you really need to speak to a competent rav to review the specifics and get a personal ruling. The above might serve as a helpful review of some of the sources.


Regarding lashon hara on the Internet, there is a book for this as well :-> (but I don't have it), this review (bottom) mentions it explicitly addresses issues relevant to your question.

Since newspapers are definitely constrained by the laws of lashon hara (see e.g., bottom of here), it stands to reason you will need rabbinic guidance on your app as well.

R Dovid Genish writes

Newspapers certainly contain much lashon hara, and as the Chofetz Chaim makes clear, the prohibition includes not writing negatively about other individuals, groups or communities. Az Nidberu (14:64) discusses the issue of liability – is it the journalist who has transgressed lashon hara or the publisher/vendor?

His conclusion is that the writer is certainly guilty, for even though at the time of writing he did not tell anyone his lashon hara, once his words are published he has transgressed retroactively. On the other hand, the publisher or vendor is by and large not liable since he has no intention to spread lashon hara – he merely earns his livelihood by selling newspapers, but does not specifically intend to damage others. Nevertheless, he recommends that one should stay as far away from such newspapers as possible.

Last, halachayomit writes in a way that would make it challenging to automatically republish articles from "non-kosher sources"

I also contacted Arutz-7, a radio station here in Israel. One of the founders of this station is a Rosh Yeshiva (dean of a Yeshiva), and I believe that they sincerely try to avoid lashon hara. The following is the reply that I received from [them]

Rabbi Zalman Melamed - the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Beit El, Rabbi of Beit El, and one of the founders of Arutz-7 - is the rabbinic authority of Arutz-7. His guiding principle is, first of all, that something that is already known (public knowledge) can not always be publicized - as publicizing it further is at least avak lashon hara (a statement which is not lashon hara itself, but will cause lashon hara to be spoken).

[...]

Equally obviously, the above rules out all sorts of gossip columns, which have absolutely no place in a Torah publication. Similarly, crime stories usually should not have any names mentioned. Even political figures, who are often justifiably criticized based on the above principle of "benefit to the public," should not be mentioned by name in cases that can bring no such benefit - such as how many times he was divorced, or the like. There have been several cases when we have specifically left out names, even though in a "normal" newspaper they would have been mentioned totally matter-of factly".

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