Cjayride, an American Twitch streamer who’s made a name for himself broadcasting his life in Taiwan, has decided to leave the country in the wake of harassment, doxxing, and his personal life falling apart.
Last year, he faced criticism from the Taiwanese news media for a handful of incidents that involved littering and other relatively minor indiscretions that—to a population cautious of an American misrepresenting their culture—constituted major slights. This year, things only escalated, and last week Cjayride—whose real name is Chris James Robb—announced on Twitter that he’ll be permanently departing Taiwan in the near future.
Over the weekend, he posted a video to YouTube that recapped his time in Taiwan, where he’s been living on and off for four years, and addressed the past year’s string of controversies, which he claims have resulted in death threats to himself and his friends and family, as well as organized harassment efforts from a dedicated Facebook group and a high-profile Taiwanese streamer.
He told Kotaku, however, that he’s leaving not because of those particular things, but because of the corrosive effects they’ve had on his day-to-day life and relationships.
“The largest motivation for me to move is losing all of my friends, losing my girlfriend, and receiving personal bans from establishments that I enjoy visiting and have supported over the years,” he said in an email. “The people, streamers, and Facebook group after me and my family are terrorizing at times, but we’re all strong and capable of enduring it.”
The trouble began with a few littering incidents last year. Littering is considered deeply disrespectful in Taiwan, and clips of Robb discarding bamboo skewers into a plot of dirt, flinging a quail egg into a bush, and abandoning a cup outside a Taipei metro entrance circulated throughout Taiwanese news media and on social media as evidence that Robb was using his stream as a platform to disrespect Taiwan and Taiwanese culture.
Robb has always contended that his goal is to help more people appreciate Taiwan the way he does, so he quickly issued an apology video in which he promised to clean up his act.
Compared to some of the wild-child Ice Poseidon imitators in Twitch’s IRL section, Robb’s adventures in Taipei are actually pretty low-key. He rides around on his electric skateboard, hangs out with friends, visits his favorite establishments, and sometimes even helps out drunk or elderly people. But with over 50,000 followers, he has a lot of eyes on him, and he’s amassed a rap sheet of small slights. He’s been taken to task for filming two girls arguing, one of whom he claims he’d known for six years previously. He also turned a guy he met on a train into a Twitch chat emote, but removed it after he found out that the person was offended by having his image thrown to the wolves of a meme-happy community.
It wasn’t until January 2018 that things reached a fever pitch. Robb streamed a small party he threw alongside fellow American IRL streamer Jakenbake in a hotel room with a hot tub. They were joined by one other man and two women, all in bathing suits. While they hung out in and around the hot tub, viewers of Robb’s stream started spamming “EZ” in order to trigger an emote of Pepe the Frog in a trench coat that could only be seen by people using a certain Twitch extension. To everybody else, it just looked like they were saying “easy,” presumably in reference to the women. Other users clipped bits and pieces of the stream, adding titles like “Taiwan girl wants to eat foreign sausage.”
The next day, news outlets accused Robb of saying that Taiwanese women were easy. He refuted that, pointing out that he never said anything of the sort, and that Twitch users can headline clips however they want. But that didn’t stop one of Taiwan’s most popular streamers, ckkos44444, or CK as he’s more commonly known, from threatening to leave Twitch entirely over what he viewed as giving a platform to discrimination against Taiwanese people.
A few days later, after Robb’s community turned CK into a meme, he jumped over to YouTube and has not streamed on Twitch since. This added fuel to the fire and catapulted the hot tub incident into the mainstream eye. In the meantime, Robb received two temporary Twitch bans, one that lasted three days and a second that lasted for seven. Per Twitch’s usual policy, the exact reasons why were not disclosed.
During this time period, a CK supporter created a dedicated anti-Cjayride Facebook group. It’s private, but according to a Polygon report from February, the group has doxxed Robb as well as his family in the United States. Despite seemingly being in violation of Facebook’s rules, the group is still active and has 15,373 members as of today.
In the wake of the hot tub incident, Robb released another apology video, although not exactly willingly. “The video was made because Twitch asked me to give an apology,” reads the video’s description. “I did nothing wrong nor did anyone involved with the video. Legal action will be taken against those who continue to slander and publish libel.”
The video he released over the weekend, too, is significantly more combative than his previous prepared statements. In it, he goes after everyone from news media to former friends for how things ultimately played out. While he begins the video with a disclaimer saying that he’s not trying to incite action against any individuals or businesses, he proceeds to specifically call out individuals like the two arguing women he got lambasted for filming, who he says used to be his friends until they “published a lot of hateful information” about him. He then goes on the offensive, claiming that they worked in a hostess bar and once asked him for legal advice about one of their employees getting pregnant. “So, for anyone who sticks up for these girls, let it be known they sell sex for money, and they teach other Taiwanese girls how to do it, too,” he says in the video.
Attempting to broadcast and translate Taiwanese culture as an American is a difficult proposition, to say the least. Since the 17th century, Taiwan has been colonized by the Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese at various points. In 1949, Chinese nationalist leadership fled to Taiwan with more than a million people in tow after losing a civil war. Taiwan as we now know it is made up of those exiles, their descendants, and many different aboriginal groups. These days, Taiwan has its own elected government, but China and most of the world’s most powerful nations view it as an extension of China. While many citizens favor the current, ambiguous status quo, tensions around the subject of true independence are high, with China threatening “punishment of history” if Taiwan officially declares independence. A burgeoning youth culture has become especially protective of their identity as Taiwanese, rather than Chinese. According to a survey conducted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, 70 percent of young people in Taiwan said they’d take up arms if China’s military ever invaded. Thanks to globalization and the internet, though, young people in Taiwan have a lot in common with their counterparts in Western nations and around the world. But like any culture, theirs is, well, theirs.
Despite all that, Taiwan is generally regarded as an inviting place with a decently high tolerance for Westerners, though they’re still expected to be respectful and considerate. But the complex context underlying the place Robb tried to translate for his predominately non-Taiwanese audience is important and helps make people’s reaction to Robb make more sense, even if he feels that, while he made some mistakes, they weren’t worthy of the ongoing harassment and threatening calls to his family. Westerners don’t have an amazing reputation for carefully navigating the nuances of Asian cultures, and spending every day broadcasting one’s misadventures in doing so is especially tricky territory. Robb’s actions may not have been intentionally malicious, but some of them were careless enough to appear that way. For many Taiwanese people, it seems that was enough.
Robb, however, doesn’t think his mistakes were the “root cause” of all the attention he got. He believes Taiwan’s nascent streaming culture was the fuse that ultimately lit the bomb.
“I believe it’s haters, jealous viewers, communities of Taiwan broadcasters, that stretch the truth and sometimes boldly lie about a situation,” he said. “They then feed that fake information to media. It then becomes fake news. Then the rest of society is wrapped in a misunderstanding. So there’s layers to it. I don’t believe that anyone in their right mind would feel that harassment is a just penalty for leaving a bubble tea cup at the entrance to a subway station, so there has to be something more to it, some kind of underlying hate.”
He feels that he should’ve been more proactive and less trusting of other broadcasters and broadcasting companies, as well as news media. He thinks he should’ve issued statements that proved everybody wrong instead of choosing to “lay low” and issue apologies.
“In hindsight, I would have done so many things differently,” he said. “From my actions, to equipment investments, to the friends I made, to the people I trusted, to the community management, to dealing with media and PR, and the list goes on.”
Robb only decided to leave Taiwan, he said, after visiting other places like Hong Kong this summer. Afterward, he returned to Taiwan and, once again, found trouble waiting for him. “When a club employee (Omni Nightclub) got physical with me on the street (not inside the club), he started pushing me and kicking my Uber car door to prevent me from leaving the scene,” Robb wrote in the email to Kotaku. “This was the last straw for me because there was nothing I could say to him to change his mind about me... Since traveling to other countries, I’ve found myself much happier on a personal level and as a broadcaster.”
Robb plans to spend the next few months going on a series of trips to scout out potential new homes. He’s hoping to stay in the same part of the world, but, he said, in a country where streaming culture isn’t so new, and people are more likely to accept him.
“Relocating to a different place will be helpful to start with a fresh slate, take the knowledge I’ve learned, and start a new chapter, a new season, Cjayride 3.0,” he said.