One of the distinctive features of the Internet age is the manner in which social etiquette is enforced. The mechanism itself is not new: it is in essence peer pressure, which has existed as long as the human race has existed. The distinctive part is the seeming disproportion between the violation and the punishment. For a thoughtless comment on the Internet, a job and livelihood are commonly lost.
Why is this so? One reason may be that people rarely think of themselves as sanction-givers. People usually think of themselves as merely expressing moral outrage, unaware that such expressions, once piled up, are sanctions in and of themselves.
Some may be aware that their expressions are also sanctions, but unaware of the scale and proportionality of sanctions. This is partially because one person is unable to properly anticipate the effect of one's statement multiplied by the thousands. It is also partially because people simply are not trained--not even informally--as a sanction-giver. Expression of outrage requires no training; the moral intuition takes care of that. But the moral intuition is insufficient to create an effective sanction giver, who is essentially a policy maker. What level of sanction is enough to correct behavior? What level of sanction is fair, compared to other cases? Intuition alone does not answer these questions; a rigorous rational inquiry must also follow. Moral intuition unchecked by rational inquiry is what we see on the Internet--the permanent state of righteous indignation, seeking the next witch to burn.