SCREENSHOT VIA TWITCH
Jason Gargac, currently suspended livestreamer and Uber driver.
A St. Louis Uber and Lyft driver who filmed hundreds of passengers without their knowledge won't be livestreaming any time soon — or at least, he won't be doing it on Twitch.
This afternoon, Twitch issued an indefinite suspension against Florissant resident Jason Gargac, 32, who's been filming his rides since March under the username "JustSmurf." The livestreaming company cited\ "a review of community reports" that alleged Gargac was using the company's services for "harassment."
It's not clear whether the suspension is due to Twitch's automated reporting feature, which tallies strikes for user-submitted reports of alleged harassment, or whether the company has taken direct action against Gargac for turning passengers into content for his online audience.
The suspension comes less than a day after Gargac was exposed in a deeply reported article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
's Erin Heffernan, who apparently reviewed dozens of hours of Gargac's stream going back months. Heffernan's story — which, if you haven't, you should really read right now
— is full of details indicating that Gargac intentionally misled passengers about the nature and purpose of his in-car recording operation.
also managed to track down several of those passengers. One told Heffernan, "I feel violated. I’m embarrassed."
It's worth noting that when it comes to recording people, Missouri is a "one party" consent state, meaning that consent is only required by one party in a conversation to make that recording legal. In this situation, Gargac is arguing that his stream fell within the bounds of the law, since he was one of the people being recorded, and he certainly knew about it.
But Twitch apparently took a different view of things.
This afternoon, Gargac announced his suspension from Twitch in a post to his channel's Discord chatroom. (Discord is a third-party chat client widely used by Twitch streamers to host dedicated chat communities around their channels.)
Gargac, who claims that that he's never used his stream to harass anyone, then posted the email notice from Twitch itself:
In an earlier posting on the Discord thread, Gargac defended his streaming channel and called the Post-Dispatch
story "bullshit." He also complained that he'd only participated in the story because he knew it was going to be written anyway.
It's not as though Gargac totally ignored the issues raised in the article. Today's suspension followed a short-lived moment in which Gargac seemed to admit that he'd crossed a line with his stream. Early this morning, Gargac tweeted
that he had decided to delete the stored videos on his Twitch page.
However, hours later, on his Discord page, Gargac walked back that decision, writing that he regretted deleting the videos:
"The main point of the cameras and the stream is to be able to protect myself from either criminal activity or fictitious claims from riders," he wrote in a chat timestamped 11:19 am.
Gargac repeated his argument that his Twitch stream had not created a platform for harassment — a claim he also made in the Post-Dispatch
story. But in that story, Heffernan noted that while Gargac had stated that his livestreaming was motivated by security concerns, he also couldn't seem to keep his story straight.
Heffernan wrote: "In the same interview, however, Gargac said he started driving Uber and Lyft for the purpose of creating the livestream. Not the other way around."
That's not the only example of Gargac trying to argue both sides of the issue, and it appears that he's been willing to bend the truth in the past when passengers confronted him about whether he was recording them. From the Post-Dispatch
In dozens of hours of footage reviewed by the Post-Dispatch, very few people seem to notice the camera. A few who asked were told by Gargac that he was recording for safety. He doesn’t always specify that he is streaming live.
In his Discord chats this afternoon, Gargac seemed to be trying to walk that same narrow line: defending his actions while admitting that, ideally, he'd prefer that his passengers not know that he's recording them.
For instance, Gargac does have a sticker on the rear window of his vehicle stating, "Notice: For security this vehicle is equipped with audio and visual recording devices. Consent given by entering vehicle."
But in his attempts this afternoon to address criticism that he's generating attention and entertainment for his viewers by exploiting his passengers' ignorance, he also seemed to undercut that argument. On the Discord thread, he brought up the fact that the Post-Dispatch
had mentioned the sticker on his car warning passengers that he was recording. So, the argument seemed to go, the passengers should be aware, and everybody should just chill.
But then Gargac went the other way, writing of the sticker, "[G]ranted it was fucking TINY on purpose, but it was there."
Gargac has also had his Uber account suspended, a measure first reported
Mashable reporter Kellen Beck.
"The troubling behavior in the videos is not in line with our Community Guidelines," a spokesperson for Uber told Beck. "The driver’s access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber."
On the Discord chat, Gargac confirmed that he'd been suspended from Uber, though he contested that it had anything to do with alleged harassment.
"I am deactivated at the moment," he wrote, "but its not from livestreaming. Its something that should be fixed soon."
Gargac is an Army veteran and is a licensed peace officer in Missouri. He's apparently looking for his first gig as a police officer. For more info on this guy and his stream, go read the Post-Dispatch story.
Update, Sunday 9:30 a.m.:
According to a morning tweet from Post-Dispatch
reporter Erin Heffernan, Gargac has also been booted from Lyft.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
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