Onaat devarim is a biblical prohibition to commit verbal abuse (Bava Metzia 58b based on Vayikra 25:17 "וְלֹא תוֹנוּ אִישׁ אֶת עֲמִיתוֹ וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹקיךָ כִּי אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹקיכֶם", "one shall not aggrieve his fellow, and you shall fear your G-d, for I am Hashem your G-d."; Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 228:1; Sefer Hamitzvot 251; Sefer Hachinuch 338). The Gemara and Shulchan Aruch say it is worse than onaat mamon (overcharging) because it can't be undone and it injures the person himself, not just his money. Rambam (Hilchot Deot 6:3; Hilchot Teshuva 3:14) writes that one who regularly shames others has no portion in the World to Come. Chazon Ish Letters volume 1 #211 says onaat devarim applies even if the discomfort is only momentary (see http://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Hurting_Others%27_Feelings ).
A counterpoint to this ideal of "Torat Chessed" (Torah of Compassion) is that of the extremely high regard halacha places on the pursuit of truth and intellectual honesty ("Torat Emet"). The Maharshal infers from a passage in Bava Kamma that the principle of presenting halacha accurately is yehareg v'al ya'avor (worthy of martyrdom) even to the extent of endangering the Jewish nation as a whole. In fact, the Talmud is replete with examples where harsh (and seemingly personal) rhetoric is used in disputes of halacha, and the biting tongues of Torah scholars are famously compared to those of venomous serpents. (See also the famous dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai [כתובות ט"ז ב] regarding how one handles the balance between honesty and avoiding offense.)
Unfortunately, the internet/blogosphere has become a notorious forum for cyberbullying and anonymous harassment, even within the otherwise halachically-observant world and even in forums devoted to analysis of halacha and hashkafa, such as this one. This can sometimes be the case unintentionally where the "victimizer" is not even aware that he is inflicting suffering on his fellow.
It is a frequent occurrence, on this forum as well as others, that a clearly less experienced poster submits an entry that is not particularly knowledgeable. My question is this:
If one doesn't know very much about a poster (e.g. their education level, if they are emotionally vulnerable, if they are a child), is it permitted halachically to e.g. "downvote" a question or answer they have posted, whether on this forum or any other?
[It was suggested that this question is a duplicate of another that discusses the ramifications of "down-voting" with regard to the prohibition of lashon hara. However, these are 2 completely different prohibitions with different laws. Furthermore, while the accepted answer there does cite a view that is possibly relevant to the question of down-voting between peers, it tells us little regarding where a down-vote might be (mis)interpreted as hurtful by a child or new user.]