In the days since he helped precipitate a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, Senator Ted Cruz has faced a furious backlash. The chair of his 2016 presidential campaign denounced his former boss; former GOP lieutenant governor David Dewhurst called for Cruz’s censure; a number of corporate donors have vowed to cut off Cruz and other members of Congress who voted to overturn the election; and Democratic senators and newspaper boards have begun calling for his resignation. He’s also come under fire from a less potent political force: Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal, who posted his most popular tweet this weekend, encouraging his followers to contact the junior senator’s office to voice their feelings on the past week.
Ted Cruz’s phone number to share your thoughts: 512- 916-5834
— Pedro Pascal he/him (@PedroPascal1) January 9, 2021
In response, a number of news outlets, including the New York Daily News and the Canadian edition of Entertainment Tonight (as well as a bunch of people on various social media sites), claimed that the Mandalorian had “doxxed” Cruz.
Doxxing is serious business. It refers to the practice of releasing personal information (the term comes from “documents”) about individuals online, often in an attempt to intimidate or threaten them. Think: posting pictures of someone’s kids and revealing where they go to school, or sharing the home address of someone who is in the midst of a social media harassment campaign. It’s the internet at its ugliest, marshaling information, even info that’s technically public, as a way to weaponize anger. The consequences of sharing sensitive information online can be severe. It often becomes a game in which users find ways to harass victims—calling in fake emergencies to send SWAT teams to their homes; posting explicit personal ads with their phone numbers—by utilizing information that’s nobody’s business. In just one famous example of doxxing, a cadre of video game fans drove several women in the gaming industry from their homes in 2014, after sharing their addresses and threatening messages on game forums.
That’s not what Pascal did in posting Cruz’s office number, though. Pascal didn’t circulate Cruz’s cellphone or home number, which would have been inappropriate—elected officials are entitled to private lives—but the office line is publicly available for a simple reason: Cruz serves the people of Texas, and as their representative he’s accountable to them while he’s at work. It’s not doxxing to provide Cruz’s constituents with the proper information they need to leave him feedback about his job performance through those official channels, it’s just how government works. (If you have other concerns for another representative, visit their official .gov website, click on “contact,” and reach out!)
Calling that number isn’t necessarily efficient, though. Even before Pascal shared the number, callers to Cruz’s office were likely to get a computerized response, informing them that the voicemail box was full; even when it isn’t, callers are usually just given the opportunity to record a message. There are other ways to contact him, though, including a “voice your opinion” form on his website. Sharing that link isn’t doxxing, either.
The past few weeks have seen a number of crossed boundaries—both physical and metaphorical—that Americans can’t go much further past before the nation stops looking like a stable, safe democracy. Pascal sharing Cruz’s office number (or, for that matter, Cruz criticizing the actor’s turn in Wonder Woman 1984 as his “worst performance”) isn’t among them, however. Ensuring that a senator’s constituents have a way to contact their representative’s office while they’re at work is just democracy in action. This, as the Mandalorians say, is the way.