Jewish Perspectives on Fake News
רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר: עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַדִּין וְעַל הָאֱמֶת וְעַל הַשָּׁלוֹם
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: “The world stands on three things: judgement, truth, and peace.” (Pirkei Avot 1:18)
We live in an era of “fake news”. We have witnessed that fictitious news stories perpetrated by news outlets, on the internet, and in social media have impacted elections, incited violence, and ruined reputations and even people’s lives.
In this unit, we will look at fake news from a Jewish perspective. You might think that this a “no-brainer”- that certainly if Judaism believes that one of the pillars that ensures the existence of the world is truth, as reflected in Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel’s Mishnaic dictum quoted above, then certainly it is prohibited to create a false news story. Indeed, that is true. But as we will find through a look at a number of Jewish sources, the issue of fake news is much more complex than that. Let’s begin.