For the 5th year in a row, TIME returns for its list of most influential people on the net, and this year’s roster is made up of mostly of young entertainers, as well as a number of political figures. Chosen based on their “global impact on social media, as well as their ability to drive views,” Time named Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Cardi B, and BTS as musical artist standouts for 2019. Other notable names like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jada Pinkett Smith also made the list, with TIME also taking the time to highlight the influence of the Hong Kong protesters and climate change school strikers.
Lil Nas X
“Old Town Road”, he track, made to a $30 beat and released in late 2018, first gained steam as the soundtrack to the “#yeehaw” challenge on video-sharing app TikTok, then for getting removed from Billboard’s Hot Country chart. Lil Nas X recruited Billy Ray Cyrus for a remix, which has now topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 15 weeks and logged 9 of the 11 biggest streaming weeks of all time.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Her Twitter handle “AOC,” has nearly 4.8 million followers on the platform, more than most members of Congress.
President Donald Trump
This year Trump used his massive online platform to criticize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his campaign’s connections to Russia and increased his attacks on social media companies
In 2019,music fanbase ARMY helped their ever loved K-pop boy band BTS top Billboard’s Social Artist chart for over two years, the ARMY propelled the group’s members—RM, J-Hope, Suga, Jung Kook, Jimin, Jin and V—to even greater success.
Teenage runaway Rahaf Mohammed opened a Twitter account in January and catapulted her plight—and the status of Saudi women—onto the world stage. Then 18, Mohammed had escaped a family she described as abusive and a system in which male guardians are given authority over their female relatives’ life decisions, including the ability to travel abroad.
Ariana Grande in February held all three top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — the first artist to do so since the Beatles.
The School Strikers
Students inspired by Greta Thunberg and united worldwide by the #FridaysforFuture and #SchoolStrike4Climate hashtags have used social media to organize their own strikes drawing attention to adult inertia on tackling climate change and lowering carbon emissions.
23-year-old former Vine star get so famous that she was tapped to host Vogue’s Met Gala red carpet and interview Barack Obama.
A GoFundMe campaign started in December by Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, wound up raising more than $25 million to help construct Trump’s controversial barrier without government assistance—the largest sum in GoFundMe history.
James Charles, a beauty vlogger best known as the first male ambassador for CoverGirl, declared to his followers that he wanted to be a “catalyst” for “influencer representation in the media.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, launched an independent social media account on Instagram in April, @SussexRoyal, it was bound to make waves. The handle reached 1 million followers in its first six hours, a platform record. (It’s since accrued 9.1 million.) While baby photos are among @SussexRoyal’s draws, most posts are dedicated to the pair’s work as royals.
Germán Garmendia has earned over 13 billion views, making him the world’s most popular Spanish-language YouTuber.
Cardi B boasts more than 47 million followers. Cardi made headlines for posting a video criticizing President Trump for not funding the government, “all for a f-cking wall.” The video went viral, and even came to the attention of Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Brian Schatz, who publicly debated whether they should retweet the video.
You may not know the name Chris Godfrey, but you have probably heard of his creation: the World Record Egg, an Instagram post that became the platform’s most-liked image in January. Godfrey, who works at a London advertising agency, launched his campaign with an image of a single egg against a white background and a straightforward appeal: “Let’s set a world record together.”
For two years, Maza had been the subject of videos from popular right-wing commentator Steven Crowder, who repeatedly denigrated Maza’s sexual orientation and ethnicity—actions that appeared to violate YouTube’s terms of service. But when Maza reported Crowder, he says YouTube didn’t respond. So at the end of May, Maza went public with his struggles on Twitter. His thread quickly went viral, prompting a new wave of harassment from Crowder fans—and eventually, a pseudo-apology from Crowder and a response from YouTube, which demonetized Crowder’s channel.
Zhang Dayi, one of China’s most prominent social influencers, and fellow e-commerce mogul Kylie Jenner. Zhang has more than 11 million followers on Weibo, where she regularly promotes new products from her clothing, lingerie and makeup lines via livestream videos watched by hundreds of thousands of fans.
JoJo Siwa, a relentlessly enthusiastic 16-year-old from Nebraska who sings, dances, and vlogs on YouTube and TikTok. She wears bright colors and plays with unicorn toys; the trademark giant bows that she wears became so popular among tweens that they were banned at a number of schools in Great Britain, one of the star’s few controversies.
Ben Shapiro, The self-described “Sometimes Trumper” hosts a podcast and radio show with millions of collective listeners, and founded the Daily Wire, a popular online source of conservative news and opinions.
In July, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital named Lupo its inaugural Content Creator of the Year in recognition of a record-breaking sum he raised on the charity’s behalf. Each year, top streamers participate in St. Jude’s Play Live, dedicating their gaming broadcasts to the charity and encouraging followers to donate. In 2019, Lupo’s four-hour Play Live stream netted over $920,000, “the most any streamer has raised in event history,” according to a St. Jude’s press release.
Emma Chamberlain pioneered an approach to vlogging that shook up YouTube’s unofficial style guide. Two years and 8 million subscribers later, the 18-year-old is being described as the most important person on the platform.
Hong Kong Protesters
Users on Internet forum LIHKG and encrypted messaging app Telegram have been tied to everything from a march past foreign consulates to a siege of police headquarters.
Yashar Ali, who routinely uses his platform—more than 425,000 followers on Twitter—to break news (the dates of the first Democratic National Debates, the revelation that Les Moonves attempted to derail Janet Jackson’s career after her infamous 2004 Super Bowl performance) and start viral conversations about everything from living with ADHD to how many towels two adults should own (Yashar thinks the correct answer is over 50).
Jameela Jamil, who rose to prominence as an actor on NBC’s The Good Place, is now one of the internet’s most outspoken advocates for body positivity. Jamil has made headlines for using her platform—nearly 3 million followers across Instagram and Twitter—to call out celebrities like Cardi B and the Kardashian family for endorsing weight loss products and slam airbrushing for being “weaponized” against women.
Ady Barkan was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2016, he decided to dedicate what time he had left toward fighting for “Medicare for All” and other progressive priorities. Now he’s being described as “the most powerful activist in America.”
Jada Pinkett Smith
Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk, which Jada Pinkett Smith hosts alongside her daughter Willow and mother Adrienne, each bringing a different generational viewpoint to a variety of hot topics.