In a world where very little is certain, we tend to cling to those few bastions of stability that remain. The rising and setting of the sun. The inevitable arrival of another Spider-Man movie every handful of years. And the certainty that “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to”’s famous Study Girl is never going to finish her damn homework, no matter how much her poor cat needs to be fed.
And yet, that rock of certainty was cruelly strip-mined out from under the feet of the internet last night, when YouTube briefly suspended the channel of ChilledCow, the semi-anonymous curator who’s been streaming the YouTube live playlist of relaxed musical selections for multiple years at this point. And while the channel has now been restored—along with a new YouTube Live video, now just a few hours old, rather than the 13,000-some it had last night—it’s a reminder of the weird legal area these swiftly-growing online institutions represent.
It’s worth noting that the lofi phenomenon isn’t exclusively the domain of one particular internet stream. (In fact, ChilledCow’s isn’t even the only “Study Girl”; rival College Music has its own, who notably disappeared from her stream briefly last year as part of a campaign to raise awareness for suicide prevention.) There are numerous streams running by now via YouTube’s Live streaming service, each with their own anime avatars, looping animations, and hand-picked selections of low-stress beats, and many of whom sport subscriber numbers in the low millions. It’s become pervasive enough that the New York Times wrote about it back in 2018, revealing, among other things, that ChilledCow—whose channel is popular enough that you can see plenty of merch floating around for it online, to say nothing of clever cosplays of Study Girl herself—was run by a 25-year-old Parisian named Dimitri.
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It’s not clear what earned the channel the takedown from the Google-owned company; given that most of these stations operate in gray areas with almost all of the content they use, from the music, to the art, to the way they take advantage of YouTube’s prioritization of videos with high retention rates to stay at the top of the service’s recommendation algorithms, it could have been practically anything. The reaction online was more straightforward, though: Mourning the loss of a long-time “friend,” mixed with a lot of jokes about how Study Girl had finished her homework at last.
In any case, the rightful order has now been re-established: The Girl has been chained back to her desk, the beats are flowing, and all is right with the world—at least, until the next Terms Of Service violation comes rolling along.