The #metoo Movement originated on Twitter, and has raised awareness for women who have been affected by sexual violence. The movement amplified the problem through social media, causing #metoo to trend on a global level.
Problems and Purpose
The #metoo Movement sought to focus on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. According to the CDC, in the United States, “46.3% of women (nearly 52.2 million) experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime...” . The movement was created in order to raise awareness for the large number of women who face sexual assault and harassment. The purpose of the movement began with Alyssa Milano’s tweet which stated the intended purpose of the call to social media engagement. The tweet writes, “Me too. Suggested by a friend: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” . Therefore, the purpose of the movement was to showcase the magnitude of the problem.
Background History and Context
Social movements have increasingly made their way to social media platforms. Movements such as the “Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street in the US, and Los Indignados in Spain, and the YoSoy132 movement in Mexico” were all movements which began offline and garnered more support and attention through online platforms . Another important and influential movement is the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, the movement garnered 14.6 million Instagram posts by 11:45am on June 2 . As social media has progressed, it has allowed for these social movements to garner more attention because they allow those participating the opportunity to engage with very little effort. Furthermore, the attention social media brings to these movements can also spark heightened inspiration to become involved.
The ‘me too’ phrase was started in 2006 (by Tarana Burke), but did not garner attention until it went viral in 2017 . In 24 hours, the hashtag was used more than 500,000 times sparking a social movement completely started online . The online beginnings of this movement make it different in that previous movements have started offline and moved online. This movement swapped the social media process by starting online and moving offline. Within its first year of Milano’s original tweet, the #metoo hashtag was used “more than 19 million times on twitter” . Following Anderson and Toor’s article, “that works out to an average of 55, 139 uses of the hashtag per day” . Since then, the #metoo Movement has formed itself into a global organization with support of other organizations focused on the same mission.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The #metoo movement has garnered global support through social media platforms, especially, Twitter. The global organization also highlights and acknowledges organizations who take part in the fight to end sexual violence. These organizations are listed as “Organizations in Action” on the #metoo official website. These organizations include: 1in6, BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, BEAM, Black Women’s Blueprint, Darkness to Light, FORGE, FreeForm, Girls for Gender Equity, Joyful Heart, Justice for Migrant Women, Rise, and many more . In addition to these, one can find an immense number of #metoo Movement social media pages created by everyday users. What is unique about this movement, is that while many of these organizations have the capability to support this global movement, anyone with an active Twitter account could join and become involved.
While the #metoo Movement existed before 2017, it is no secret that the power of the internet created an influx of funding for the movement. Hill wrote a report documenting the increase of funding the movement obtained. She reported that since the movement’s inception in 2018, “the staggering sums raised by nonprofits focused on women’s issues prove that this movement will have a major impact for years to come” . When researching the surge of funding, Hill found that after looking at 180 organizations that serve women, “the total dollar amount of donations through its site to those nonprofits has jumped 7% in the past year, with the number of donations up 13%” . In addition, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund raised $21 million dollars . The article by Hill nods that many of these donations were given in small and large capacities, ranging in support from celebrities to others all over the country . Lastly, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) saw a 42% increase in donations with support from individuals and major networks like Google .
The #metoo Movement gained the support through organizations with similar missions, everyday individuals, celebrities, and major networks. This emphasizes the power social media has to drive a movement forward. The organization centered its support around a mission that has propelled different actions among a large group of people who have never met and probably will never know one another. This type of support has created a new organizational strategy as the distinct focus of the organization never alters. This produces the capacity to organize on a national and global level without deviating from a specific mission.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants within the movement ranged from individuals, celebrities, politicians and news sources. All of these participants took part in the viral movement on twitter. Brünker et. al determined primary participants who gained the most traction from tweets as “power users” . These power users were listed into roles. Roles included titles such as ‘private person,’ ‘celebrity,’ ‘activists,’ ‘journalists,’ and so on . Furthermore, Pew researchers, Anderson and Toor found that topics discussed also included celebrities and politicians. Anderson and more write the topics were: “Twitter users sharing personal stories of harassment; users talking about the entertainment industry or celebrities in their tweets; and users discussing national politics or politicians” . The Twitter users became intertwined with one another as they retweeted, tweeted in reply to others, or called for an act of public participation from others. Within the first two months of the movement, 44% members of Congress mentioned sexual misconduct on their official Facebook pages, most of which were women . Public participation in the movement truly sparked through the masses and was practiced by those in the most influential roles.
Methods and Tools Used
The primary method used to spark public participation was social media. Twitter was the primary platform by which users engaged with one another. Following twitter, online engagement also took place on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. According to Manikonda et. al, Reddit users used the platform to share their personal stories in a positive way. Their research found that none of the #metoo posts on the platform ever received “down votes” suggesting posts and engagements were positive .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
From Bünker et. al’s research, social media users engaged in this social movement by the practice of sharing testimonies, personal information, references, and calls for action through tweets . These tweets garnered support and shares through retweets of other users. Each user, in the study, used a form of descriptive content such as hashtags, urls to external, media content, and @mentions to contribute to the conversation online regarding the #metoo movement . This descriptive content along with the categories analyzed the behaviors of the roles that each user portrayed during the movement.
Lastly, research showed the peak of communication for all categories throughout the two-month analysis of the movement. The categories of tweets were tweeted higher on the first day, but the second peaks were connected to offline events . The online participation had the capacity to spark offline action. This became a cycle as the #metoo movement began to interact on- and offline. Pew Research also drew connections between offline and online events. Within its first year, the #metoo was used more than 19 million times. . This averaged over 55,000 tweets with the hashtag per day . The most tweets were reported to be higher around events that had to do with sexual misconduct such as the resignation of Leslie Moonves from CBS and Harvey Weinstein’s resignation . These tweets had the ability to amplify the movement around events centered to the movement’s cause.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through research around the #metoo Movement, “social media is enabling individuals to recognize the importance of addressing the highly stigmatized issues such as sexual abuse.” . Because of the viral effects of the movement, the #metoo Movement has and continues to fulfill its purpose of raising awareness and fighting to end sexual violence. Throughout the life of the movement, supporting organizations have offered support to women and other specific demographics who have been affected by this issue.
The movement has also garnered more awareness through participation by influential characters such as celebrities and politicians. It is important to note that Branding motives were also discussed within the roles of celebrities as disclosure of personal information were lower for these roles than private persons . However, regardless of motive, the attention drawn to the movement was shed in a positive light. Lee discussed that this movement has led widespread discussion about how to stop problems with sexual abuse or harassment at work . Furthermore, the world does not consider this issue to be solved by an individual, and that is has shifted the norms of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The #metoo Movement has allowed a global sharing of personal stories and information regarding sexual violence. In the sharing of this information, circulation, and conversation of tweets, the study of Bünker et. al found that it could be beneficial for use of activists and NGOs to better promote their agenda . The positive outcomes from the #metoo Movement may serve as a catalyst for future social movements or aid current movements in completing their agendas.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The #metoo Movement was unique due to the fact that it was started completely online when sparking public participation. It showcases the power of public participation through social media that other movements will follow for years to come.
The movement also shows the impact that stories can have on individuals who do not know one another as participants shared personal stories and experiences regarding the issue. As supporting organizations and fundraising have come to the forefront of the movement, members of the #metoo Movement have been seen and heard. The power of social of media in accordance with personal stories showcases the power of organizing globally around the same mission. Sparked by a tweet, the movement has created a momentum that will last for years to come. While the success of future online movements is uncertain, these movements have a strong framework and example to follow in the future.
 Smith, S.G., Zhang, X., Basile, K.C., Merrick, M.T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M., Chen, J. (2015). NISVS 2015 Data Brief, Violence Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/datasources/nisvs/2015NISVSdatabrief.html
 Milano, A. (2017, October 15). If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n. https://twitter.com/Alyssa_Milano/status/919659438700670976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E919659438700670976%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_
 Bursztynsky, J., & Whitten, S. (2020, June 02).
Instagram users flood the app with millions of Blackout Tuesday posts. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/02/instagram-users-flood-the-app-with-millions-of-blackout-tuesday-posts.html
 Brünker, F., Wischnewski, M., Mirbabaie, M., & Meinert, J.
(2020). The Role of Social Media during Social Movements – Observations from the #metoo Debate on Twitter. Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. doi:10.24251/hicss.2020.288
 Anderson, M., & Toor, S. (2020, August 25). How social media users have discussed sexual harassment since #MeToo went viral. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/11/how-social-media-users-have-discussed-sexual-harassment-since-metoo-went-viral/
 Organizations in Action. (2020, July 16). https://metoomvmt.org/take-action/organizations-in-action/
 Hill, C. (2018, October 03). This is the staggering amount of money #MeToo has helped raise for women's causes. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-the-staggering-amount-of-money-metoo-has-helped-raise-for-womens-causes-2018-10-02
. Manikonda, L., Beigi, G., Liu, H., & Kambhampati, S. (2018, March 21). Twitter for Sparking a Movement, Reddit for Sharing the Moment: #metoo through the Lens of Social Media. https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.08022
 Lee, B. (2018, May 16). #Me Too Movement; It Is Time That We All Act and Participate in Transformation. https://www.psychiatryinvestigation.org/journal/view.php?number=881