If one is asked a question to which a response in the positive (ie "yes") would constitute loshon hora, is it also loshon hora to remain silent and not to answer at all? Is silence construed as if one had said "yes" or is it okay to simply not answer the question?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Lashon HaRah, even though it literally means "evil speech", covers more than mere words. For example, if someone mentions that there are "some really dumb people in the world!", and then someone points with their finger at someone – this would also be lashon Ha'rah, because the pointing, coming directly after the words were spoken (even by a different person) convey a negative statement. So too with silence. If someone asks you "So, is so and so still cheating on their taxes?" and you say "I can't answer that, it would be lashon haRah" – that itself is lashon haRah, as it obviously means that the answer is yes. Remaining totally silent will depend on the situation. If you are in the middle of a conversation and suddenly clamp up silently – well, that may very well be interpreted as you having some very bad information which you just don’t want to say (which would be forbidden). But, sometimes silence might just mean that you didn’t hear the question, or have nothing to say. You will have to decide in each situation how your silence is likely to be interpreted. As a piece of advice, you could try rather than remaining silent, to change the subject, or answer in a way that does not convey any negativity. Blessings.