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KYM Review: Events Of 2016

Editor’s Note: This article is part of Know Your Meme’s annual review series looking back at some of the most memorable and popular memes, events and people that defined the Internet culture in 2016 as we know it.

he year 2016 began on a frightening note with the news of the Zika virus outbreak in Central and South Americas (which infected an estimated 1.5 million people in Brazil alone) and the publication of the Panama Papers, the largest-scale leak in history of data journalism that exposed and implicated more than 214,488 offshore entities in tax evasion. In Europe, xenophobic and Islamophobia permeated throughout the continent in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels in March, Istanbul in June and Nice in July, all three of which were either claimed or accused to have been carried out under the direction of the Islamic State (IS), while the steady influx of refugees and migrants from the war-torn Middle East only escalated the tension.

Meanwhile in the United States, the year was heavily dominated by a string of political scandals and controversies involving both presidential candidates of the two major political parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, while other unresolved social issues, like police brutality against the black community and equal rights for the LGBTQ community, continued to draw a whole lot of friction on the social media.

Online, virtually every major social media platform struggled to reinvent itself and evolve in one way or another: YouTube's new "ad-friendly" content guidelines caused quite an uproar among some of the most popular vloggers on the site, Facebook became embroiled in several controversies for its alleged manipulation of the trending news stories and unrestrained circulation of fake news stories and hoaxes relating to the election.

Transgender Bathroom Debate

In March, the social media lit up with discussions on whether transgender people should be legally entitled to access public bathrooms in accord with their self-identified genders, as opposed to their biological sex, after North Carolina State Legislature passed a bill prohibiting people from using public bathrooms of the gender not specified on their birth certificates.

Hulk Hogan's Sex Tape Lawsuit

In March, Hulk Hogan made the headline news after a Florida jury delivered a verdict in favor of the celebrity professional wrestler in his suit against Gawker, which had published an excerpt of a half-hour long sex tape featuring Hogan, for invasion of his privacy. The shocking verdict, along with the hefty consequence of $140 million, ultimately led the Internet media giant to file bankruptcy and shut down its flagship news site in August. The stories about Hogan were also removed from the site. In November, Hogan and Gawker reached a settlement in which Gawker would pay Hogan $31 million dollars.

Panama Papers Leak

The Panama Papers Leak was a massive disclosure of 11.5 million attorney–client confidential documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which revealed how businesses, government officials and other high-profile figures were using fake companies to evade taxes and cover up various other criminal activities, including bribery, fraud, drug trafficking and human trafficking.

Terrorist Attacks in Europe

2016 Terrorist Attacks in Europe refer to three separate terrorist attacks that were carried out by in Brussels, Belgium, Istanbul, Turkey and Nice, France between March and July, all three of which were either claimed or accused to have been carried out under the direction of the Islamic State (IS).


Brexit (short for “British Exit”) refers to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), a regional political-economic union the country has been a member of since joining its precursor organization, European Economic Community (EEC), in 1973. The historic decision not only upset the climates of the European politics and global economy, but it also left a cultural imprint in the meme world by popularizing the colloquial use of "-exit" as a suffix to describe other sudden or unexpected episodes of rage quitting in various contexts.

Orlando Nightclub Shooting

The Orlando Nightclub Shooting was a mass shooting carried out by a lone gunman at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which resulted in the deaths of at least 49 patrons and wounded 53 others on June 12th, 2016. The killing spree has been classified by the authorities as an act of domestic terrorism carried out in allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), making it the deadliest mass shooting and hate crime against LGBT community in modern United States history, as well as the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Democratic National Committee Email Leak

The 2016 DNC Email Leak was a major political scandal that began with the WikiLeaks' publication of internal correspondences exchanged among the staff members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July. In the leaked emails, the DNC officials allegedly discussed various tactics and stratagems to undermine the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders in order to secure Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Democratic primaries. Published just a few day before the Democratic Party's official nomination of Clinton, the email scandal delivered a significant blow to Clinton's public stature and prompted investigations by the FBI and CIA on whether Russian government employed cyberwarfare to intervene and sway the outcome of the election in favor of Donald Trump.

2016 Summer Olympics

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics was the 31st quadrennial international multi-sport event hosted by the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. While the lead-up to the commencement of Games was marked by a jumble of concerns, doubts and controversies, such as the host city's infrastructural readiness, public safety, health hazards and civil unrest across the rest of Brazil, the Summer Olympics in Rio was generally regarded as a success.

Creepy Clown Sightings

Creepy Clown Sightings were a series of reported sightings of people dressed as clowns in remote parts of various cities and towns across the United States and Europe that first began in late August. Between August and October, the sightings of creepy clowns had spread to Florida and many other states in the South, before turning into a full-fledged transatlantic phenomenon with additional reports from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. Initially thought to be a viral marketing campaign for a horror film, the mysterious trend of "creepy clown scares" eventually hit the plateau

2016 United States Presidential Election

The 2016 United States Presidential Election was the 58th quadrennial presidential election in the U.S. that took place on November 8th, 2016. The two major candidates were former First Lady, Secretary of State and Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton, running with Tim Kaine, and Republican real estate mogul Donald Trump, running with Mike Pence. Donald Trump was elected as 45th president of the United States after defeating Hillary Clinton in electoral votes.

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