This answer states Chafetz Chaim's 7 rules regarding to'elet for Lashon Hara.

When a service provider posts his business on a ratings site such as a doctor's site like Zocdoc, or one of the travel sites like Expedia, or a store / restaurant site like Google or Yelp, that owner expects to receive reviews - both positive and negative. He hopes that overall, the number of positives will far outweigh the negatives, but, of course, there is no knowing this. He also is able to defend himself by posting his own comment to respond to any problems. Additionally, sometimes, even the negative comments may be useful to the service provider so that he can know about problems and improve the service.

Can we, therefore, assume that when one posts his business on one of these online sites, and knows that people will comment, as that feature is built into one of these sites, does this mean that he knows in advance that some of these comments might be harmful to him, but is taking that risk? And, if he's taking that risk, does that mean that any negative comments that might harm him may be permitted and therefore not considered lashon hara since, in a sense, he allowed such comments? Would that stipulation, therefore, allow someone to post negative comments without worrying that it is lashon hara, or that all comments would be considered to'elet?

Note: For this question, I assume that the provider / owner is Jewish.

  • Hopping over to this quetion to bring over the comments from the other one :P I think it's important to edit in that we're dealing with a situaiton where the provider actively posted his business onto the aggregator/review site. If he wasn't actively promoting his business and it simply got scooped up by The Google, it seems obvious that it would be considered Lashon Hora. Jun 27, 2018 at 18:35
  • 3
    There is another possible dimension: I once read a negative review (of a board game, if that matters) which went into such useful detail about all the things the poster did not like that I realized that I would like it very much. Similarly for a restaurant a negative review complaining about how staff rushed diners through their meal might be seen as positive by someone looking for a fast meal. Similarly for spicy/bland, cheap/expensive, and other matters of preference.
    – arp
    Jun 27, 2018 at 19:23
  • @arp Valid point. Which is what may make Lashon Hara, itself tough to define, sometimes.
    – DanF
    Jun 27, 2018 at 20:29
  • @Salmononius2 If you feel that your point should be placed into the question to clarify things, by all means, copy / paste it.
    – DanF
    Jun 27, 2018 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


The answers to these two related questions (Is upward/360-degree feedback halachically allowed? and Can one publicize a poor experience with a service provider to discourage others from using him?) bring a number of criteria that would make negative comments on review sites allowed

  • you are publicizing your comments to people wanting to go into business with a specific provider - not just broadcasting them to a large group
  • you are not aiming to be defamatory or hurtful but to share your experience to help others assess in a fact-based way whether or not this service provider is good for them

Comments and reviews would still have to be abide by certain rules

  • they would have to be as factual and tone-neutral as possible
  • the intentions of the reviewer are to help the readers rather than hurt the service provider

Very likely the best way to achieve all this would be for the review to focus on the facts of what happened to you and to leave out any judgement or implication on the intentions and character of the service provider and whether or not the service provider is appropriate for others.

  • While I strognly agree with that answer in the source you have in the second link :P , I'm not entirely sure that I agree with how you applied it (and I'm aware that these situations can be very subjective). I disagree with your analysis that only 'appropriate' people will see the information. This is an open public forum, so other people will definitely see it. And even if somehow you can ensure that only 'appopriate' people can see the information, one can still argue that the damage caused to the provider is greater than what's allowed (rule 7) due to the sheer magnitude of internet users. Jun 28, 2018 at 15:10
  • Rules number 3 and 5 may likely also be applicable, as well as others based on specific examples of the case. Jun 28, 2018 at 15:11
  • For me, the appropriate people are those who have a "need to know", i.e., they want to engage in business with a certain provider, and need information to know if it is a good idea. As opposed to broadcasting things to people who have no need for the information - stam lashon hara.
    – mbloch
    Jun 28, 2018 at 15:56
  • I agree with your definition of appropriate people, but I disagree that posting on a standard online review board fits the criteria where only those who "need to know" will see it. I'm viewing this as comparable to placing a flier on a bulletin board, but saying only certain people will/should read it. But I concede that this is a very subjective area. In the same vein of subjectivity, I also still believe (per the second half of my first comment) that the potential negative outcome of a negative online review may be more than what is generally allowed. Jun 28, 2018 at 17:43
  • @Salmononius2 has made some excellent points. I don't want to spend 4 comments agreeing / rebutting each of them :-) I think your bolded paragraph is a critical factor, but, of course, it is impossible to enforce this on a public review site. One question that I don't think you have answered is my last paragraph. Should we assume that the owner doesn't mind the negativity and does that matter halachically either way?
    – DanF
    Jun 29, 2018 at 14:29

R Yirmiyohu Kaganoff answered a similar question (A Critical Review – The Halachos of Book, Wine, and Restaurant Reviews) and answers

If the purpose of the review is to discourage people from buying a product or eating in a restaurant, one may not write the review. But one may publish a review that contains the positive aspects of the product.

See there at length for his rationale.

  • B"N, I'll read that when I can access the link. His conclusion sounds pretty extreme. I hope that he makes an exception if the review is used to prevent danger such as a place that has a serious health violation or a visible kashrut problem.
    – DanF
    Mar 26, 2019 at 20:18
  • Yes he does - he gives the example of reviewing a sefer with serious issues
    – mbloch
    Mar 27, 2019 at 3:31

R Yitzchak Berkovitz was asked this question and responds (as quoted on p. 315 of (the very good) R Dovid Jaffee's What can I say ... today?)

In order to post anything negative about another person or his merchandise, you must fulfill all of of the conditions of to'eles [...] the following are some of the issues you must consider [...]

  1. One must be entirely factual, and not exaggerate even slightly. This, one must also avoid using opinionated negative words like terrible or awful

  2. One must be motivated by the need to help others avoid the pain that he experienced, and not motivated by a desire for revenge

  3. One must be absolutely certain that his assessment of the product or service is accurate [...]

If all of the conditions of to'eles are fulfilled, it is right that you post the review.

I uploaded the full response here and here. Note also there might be leniencies if the review is about a non-Jew, since the rules of lashon hara are different with people who don't follow Torah and mitzvot.

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