Time magazine named the 'silence breakers' Person of the Year for their stance against sexual harassment and abuse. Time made the announcement on NBC's 'Today' show, whose longtime host Matt Lauer was recently fired amid harassment allegations.

The social movement “Me Too” is aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault. November 12, 2017
The social movement “Me Too” is aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault. November 12, 2017 ( Reuters )

Time magazine has named the social movement aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault, epitomised by the #MeToo social media hashtag, as the most influential 'person' in 2017, the publication announced on Wednesday.

"This is the fastest moving social change we've seen in decades and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women - and some men, too - who came forward to tell their own stories," Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal told NBC News, referring to them as "the silence breakers."

The movement began spontaneously in October after actress-activist Alyssa Milano followed on a suggestion from a friend of a friend on Facebook and tweeted: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet."

The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours. 

The #MeToo movement was founded by activist Tarana Burke on Twitter a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence.

Time's announcement was made Wednesday on NBC's Today show, where longtime host Matt Lauer was fired last week amid harassment allegations.

Today host Savannah Guthrie acknowledged Wednesday that this year's winner hits "close to home" and mentioned Lauer by name.

A wave becomes a movement

Time's recognition of the movement comes amid a wave of public allegations of sexual misconduct that have targeted some of the most prominent men in US politics, media and entertainment, leading to multiple firings and investigations. The hashtag and movement are gaining purchase outside the US too.

As more people made their accusations public, other individuals also shared their own stories of assault and harassment, often with posts on social media platforms using the #MeToo hashtag.

"I could never had envisioned something that would change the world. I was trying to change my community," the tag's creator told NBC.

"This is just the start. It's not just a moment, it's a movement. Now the work really begins," Burke said.

Trump, Xi runners-up

US President Donald Trump, who was Time's person of the year in 2016, was the first runner-up this year.

Trump has been accused by numerous women of sexual misconduct, and on November 24 falsely claimed that he had already turned down Person of the Year.

Following Trump in 2017 was Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Other finalists included US Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the election that Trump won; North Korean President Kim Jong-un; "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins; and football player-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick.

Time's annual distinction recognises the person, group, thing or idea that it has determined had the greatest influence on events for the year.

Source: AP