After a turbulent year for Twitter in the UK, the company has posted strong growth and is planning further engagement with the government and law enforcement
Nearly a year after launching operations in the UK, messaging service Twitter has 10 million users in this country, with an unusually high proportion accessing the service primarily through a mobile phone.
Eight million UK users accessed the site through a mobile in the last 30 days, or 80 percent of the total, compared with 55 percent for Twitter globally, the company said on Tuesday. Twitter was initially conceived as an SMS-based service, which is why messages are limited to 140 characters.
First year of UK operations
The service has 140 million users worldwide, Twitter said. Research from Semiocast published in January found that the UK had the fourth-largest number of Twitter users, after the US, Brazil and Japan.
Twitter disclosed the figures nearly a year after it opened operations in the UK in June of 2011. That year has seen the service involved in high-profile controversies, including the London riots and the super-injunctions debate.
As part of its worldwide expansion, Twitter has opened a London-based European marketing operation, and told the BBC it is hiring a public policy manager. Tony Wang, Twitter’s UK general manager, said the new hire will work with “the government, various ministries, members of parliament as well as law enforcement”.
Twitter said it now employs 30 staff in the UK.
Last summer more than 75,000 Twitter users tweeted the name of married premiership footballer Ryan Giggs, identifying him as being involved in a legal case covered by a privacy injunction.
Giggs responded to the leak with legal action against Twitter, demanding it reveal information on the “persons unknown regarding the publication of information on Twitter accounts”. He was later identified by Liberal Democrat John Hemming, who used parliamentary privilege to identify him in parliament.
At the time Attorney General Dominic Grieve warned in the House of Commons that people who thought they could use modern communications technologies to “act with impunity” might well find themselves in for “a rude shock”.
Grieve repeated his warning last week, telling the BBC’s Radio 1 Newsbeat programme that he would not hesitate to take action against Twitter users to prevent crime.
“If somebody goes down to the pub with printed sheets of paper and hands it out, that’s no different than if somebody goes and does a tweet,” he said. “The idea that you have immunity because you’re an anonymous tweeter is a big mistake.”
During the London riots Twitter was cited as having been used by rioters to coordinate their efforts, along with other tools such as BlackBerry Messenger.
The incident led the government to investigate whether it should shut down social media at times of unrest.
“We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement to the House of Commons last August.
At the time Twitter, along with Facebook and BlackBerry-maker RIM, sent representatives to meet with home secretary Theresa May to discuss ways to prevent social media from being used to coordinate criminal activity.
“We look forward to meeting with the home secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform for people in the UK at this challenging time,” Twitter said at the time.
Following the riots Twitter messages also sparked a spontaneous clean-up operation in London.
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