Twitter has issued its first report about the requests it received this year from various governments for user information, and its responses.
The U.S. government asked for information about far more users than any other country, according to the report. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Twitter received 679 requests for information from U.S. authorities pertaining to 948 users. Japan came in a distant second, with 98 requests concerning 147 users.
Most Twitter users are in the U.S., according to social media consultancy Semiocast. Japan is the third-largest Twitter user, after Brazil.
Twitter provided some or all of the information sought in 75% of the U.S. government's requests. The company provided data in response to half the requests from the Netherlands and to one-third of the requests from Japan and Australia.
Most requests were connected to criminal cases, Twitter said, adding that requests so far this year have exceeded the total for all of 2011.
Governments recognize that social networks store a great deal of information that could be useful to law enforcement, said Eva Galperin, a freedom of expression coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Therefore, she noted, the companies are "extremely powerful" and are "capable of de facto censorship."
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.