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The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet

Category: It`s interesting to know 

For our fourth annual roundup of the most influential people on the Internet, TIME evaluated contenders by looking at their global impact on social media and their overall ability to drive news. Here’s who made this year’s unranked list.


About half a decade since their debut as a group, seven-member Korean pop act BTS—which they translate as “Beyond the Scene” in English—continues to gain global momentum. They’ve already broken at least one of their own U.S. records in 2018, releasing the highest-charting K-pop album ever (Love Yourself: Tear, which debuted atop the Billboard 200). But the real engine behind their success is their passionate social fanbase, who style themselves as the “ARMY” and eagerly consume anything related to the group, from tweets to videos. For example, the YouTube views within 24 hours for their music video “Fake Love” almost surpassed Taylor Swift’s and Psy’s all-time records—no small feat. The group has notched over 89 weeks atop Billboard’s Social 50 chart, besting Justin Bieber, and recently won Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards for the second year in a row. A steady social media presence for each of the boys—along with periodic solo releases—further bolsters the group, which counts at least 50 million followers across English-language social media platforms. —Raisa Bruner


The Paul brothers—two of YouTube’s biggest stars—are no strangers to controversy: In 2018 alone, YouTube dropped 23-year-old Logan as a preferred ad partner following an incident in which he filmed himself discovering an alleged dead body in Japan’s “Suicide Forest,” and 21-year-old Jake came under fire for using the N-word while rapping. But their fans—known as the Logang and Jake Paulers, respectively—don’t seem to mind. Combined, Logan and Jake tally more than 33 million subscribers on YouTube, 27 million followers on Instagram and 21 million fans on Facebook; Forbes estimated Logan’s net worth as $12.5 million and Jake’s at $11.5 million. And they’re branching out beyond vlogs, too: last year, Logan launched his own apparel line, Maverick, and Jake has released several rap singles; inspired by the success of Fortnite, Jake also expanded his vlogging collective, Team 10, to include a gaming division.—Megan McCluskey


When Rihanna speaks—or, more precisely, ‘grams—the world listens. In March 2018, she posted an Instagram story denouncing an ad that appeared on Snapchat that used her image to make light of domestic violence, of which she is a survivor. Soon after, Snap Inc. lost $800 million in value. In May, she posted photos of herself in swimwear with visible stubble on her legs, inspiring a wave of online declarations that shaving, for this summer at least, is no longer required. But part of what makes the 30-year-old singer and entrepreneur so successful on the Internet is her own ability to listen. She listened and heard that there was a large segment of the population that felt underserved by the beauty and fashion industries, and she responded with her wildly successful makeup line, Fenty Beauty, and lingerie line, Savage x Fenty. Both were instant hits, thanks in part to Rihanna’s savvy use of social media to market them. The money—and the followers—are pouring in, with no signs of slowing. —Eliza Berman


Earlier this month, after reading that more than 2,000 children had been separated from their families as part of the Trump Administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the Willners wanted to help. So they created a Facebook fundraiser titled “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child”; their goal was to generate $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a Texas-based nonprofit, better known as RAICES, which provides legal help to immigrants and refugees. Instead, it became the most successful single fundraising campaign in Facebook history, raising more than $20 million from more than 500,000 people. “This fundraiser started with the hope of reuniting maybe one family, but it grew,” the Willners wrote on the fundraising page. “It grew so big that it couldn’t be ignored.” RAICES’ executive director Jonathan Ryan told the New York Times the money would go toward providing immigrant families with legal aid, hiring more help and paying bonds so parents could be released from detention centers and brought back to their children. —Melissa Chan

With 8 million followers on Instagram, 30-year-old Watanabe is Japan’s most popular star on social media. She’s also one of its most fearless, expertly using her platform as a comedian and fashion designer to challenge long-held stereotypes about Japanese women. Watanabe catapulted to fame 10 years ago after her over-the-top impersonations of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga went viral—becoming known as the “Beyoncé of Japan.” Her endearing personality and brash sense of humor have since helped her land gigs as a judge on X Factor Japan and a cast member on the country’s version of Saturday Night Live. She’s also making waves in fashion, getting an endorsement deal with Gap and seats at recent Fendi and Gucci runway shows; in 2014, she released her own clothing line, Punyus, which carries sizes up to a U.S. 16. “I want to tell people to love themselves as they are,” Watanabe tells TIME. “I want them to treasure what they have—that’s how I gained confidence.” It’s all part of Watanabe’s appeal both on- and offline: a commitment to being herself. —Cady Lang

FDR had the radio. JFK had TV. Trump has Twitter. The President rode to the office of the presidency on a 140-character soapbox (now 280) and has since turned it into the ultimate presidential bully pulpit. In the past, he singled out individuals as “weak” and “insecure,” in addition to a barrage of personalized insults; most recently, he called Congresswoman Maxine Waters “an extraordinarily low IQ person.” Sometimes, those tweets also undermine his own administration, such as when he announced a transgender military ban before the policy was implemented. And although Trump’s unorthodox stream of consciousness may generate headlines and galvanize his base, it has also raised concerns among national-security officials. That could be why a majority of respondents to an Economist/YouGov poll said Trump’s Twitter style is inappropriate. In November, one former contract employee working for Twitter appeared to be so fed up by Trump’s online presence that he suspended the President’s account on his last day of work, though he now asserts the 11-minute period where people couldn’t access @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter feed was a “mistake.” —Abby Vesoulis

Comedy duo Desus Nice and The Kid Mero—real names Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez—are a fairy tale for the internet age. The Bronx natives met during summer school but reconnected years later on Twitter, where their pithy, street-smart jokes earned them retweets, replies and followers galore. (Their combined following on Twitter currently clocks in at more than a million.) Their viral popularity and irreverent humor led to podcasts, hosting gigs with MTV2 and eventually, an unscripted late-night show on Viceland where they dissect politics and pop culture and feature guests ranging from Kirsten Gillibrand to Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. The pair will bring their signature wisecracking energy to Showtime in 2019, where they’ll host the network’s first weekly late-night show. In their own words, “the brand is strong.” —Cady Lang

When the longstanding ban against women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted on June 24, Eman al–Nafjan, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prolific blogger-activists on the subject, should have been celebrating. She had written on the subject of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia at SaudiWoman’s Weblog for nearly a decade, and raised awareness in a way that few outside the Kingdom ever could. (Her bilingual blog was often the first stop for foreign journalists planning to visit the country, helping them make sense of the inherent contradictions between being a Saudi woman and striving for rights that many Saudis deride as “Western feminism” antithetical to Saudi traditions.) But her international recognition may have been her undoing. In May, al–Nafjan, along with several other Saudi human rights activists, was detained and jailed on unspecified charges. State media has labeled her a traitor, a charge that can merit up to 20 years in prison—proof that, even as Saudi Arabia appears to modernize, there can be high costs to challenging the leadership. —TIME Staff

Since taking office in June 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 73, has developed a reputation for rape jokes and sexist comments. But on May 20, a few days after he stated that a woman should not be the next Chief Justice, a dozen women—from activists to artists—decided they’d had enough. Under the hashtag #BabaeAko (I Am Woman), they uploaded videos calling out sexism in the Duterte administration. “With every misogynistic statement, he is saying ‘you can do the same because I get away with it,’” says Inday Espina-Varona, 54, a journalist and one of several co-founders of the movement. Since then, Filipinas across the country have spoken out, including Congress representatives and a former Duterte cabinet member. (The president’s closest aide has called the campaign “clearly political.”) On June 12, eight days after Duterte kissed a married woman onstage in Seoul, 1,000 protesters marched in The Philippines with #BabaeAko banners. Some called for his resignation and more protests are planned in July. “Society looks up to him,” says 55-year-old actress Mae Paner, another co-founder. But Duterte, she says, still needs to be taught how to “simply be human.”—Naina Bajekal

After 17 of their friends and faculty members were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, the student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School emerged as some of America’s loudest and fiercest voices for gun control. The young activists—including Jaclyn Corin, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind and more—largely wielded their influence on Twitter, where they challenged the NRA and urged their followers to hold elected officials accountable, often using humor. In March, the teens used social media to rouse hundreds of thousands of people to rally for new gun control laws at a historic march in Washington, D.C. They also helped their home state pass a new law that, in part, raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. Next up? They’re traveling the country on a summer bus tour to register voters. —Melissa Chan



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