Written by Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
The permissibility of reading secular newspapers, particularly on Shabbos, has been discussed extensively by poskim.
In reply to a letter inquiring about his position on the subject, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote, “One should avoid reading secular material, even of a benign nature [presumably due to bittul Torah and/or the secular outlook and worldview]; even worse are those newspapers that contain material that Shulchan Aruch, as per a psak din mefurash (an explicit ruling), deems totally forbidden.”
The Rebbe’s citation of Shulchan Aruch is in reference to a discussion in hilchos Shabbos concerning which material may be read on Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch states that material of a vulgar nature is not only forbidden on Shabbos, but is prohibited throughout the week as well.
The reasons given are: moshav leitzim (engaging in vulgarities), al tifnu el ha’elilim (turning to something in conflict with the Torah spirit), and megareh yezer hara b’nafsho (arousing one’s evil inclination).
In fact, some poskim posit that forbidden newspapers have a halachic status of tzo’ah (excrement and similar repulsive waste), and one may not daven when they are present. Of course, all of the above applies equally to any medium, whether in print or in digital format, such as the websites and applications of today.