Not only is lashon hara forbidden in speech, any method with which I would convey derogatory information about a person it would be included in this lo sa’aseh, this prohibition of lashon hara.
So if I would tell over a story that causes a person damage in reputation or standing, obviously it’s lashon hara. But not only is it forbidden if I tell it over, there are many other ways to convey that information. For instance, I could write it, I could put in email, I could put it in a text, I could even hint. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you used one of these or the “Yeah, right” kind of expressions, if I convey a derogatory stance about that person and it damages his reputation, his standing, people look at him in such a way, that already could be included in lashon hara.
But even further, explains the Chafetz Chaim, you could speak lashon hara and violate this without speaking at all. He gives an example. Let’s assume someone wrote a letter and I show you that letter. And from that letter you can deduce that the person isn’t educated or he’s ignorant in a particular area. If that is a derogatory or defaming fact – let’s say it shows that he’s really not that intelligent or that his standing is really inappropriate – if it damages him that too is lashon hara. Even though I didn’t speak it out, even though I didn’t even hint it, but I showed you that letter. Because what I did was I conveyed the information.
The definition of lashon hara is words that hurt, words that damage. Any method that I use to convey that, whether through speech, whether through writing, whether through hinting is included in the issur of lashon hara.