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Defying wisdom, report says Twitter is biggest in China

Although Twitter is blocked in China, a report that came out last month suggests that the microblogging service has more users there than in the U.S.

Twitter may be officially blocked in China, but a report out late last month that's attracted a number of skeptics suggests that the microblogging service still has more users there than any other country in the world, including the United States.


According to statistics published by GlobalWebIndex and analyzed by Emarketer, Twitter has 35.5 million active users in China, and just 22 million in the U.S. India actually comes in second in the report, with 33 million people tweeting or reading tweets regularly.

The idea that anyone at all could be using Twitter in China isn't that preposterous, given that it's fairly easy to visit blocked sites by spoofing where you are with VPN services, notes the Financial Times. And given that there are more than a billion people in China, 35.5 million people would be a much smaller percentage of the population using Twitter than is the case in the U.S.

But as the blog Greatfire points out, it seems unlikely that the country with the largest Twitter user base in the world would have no one with more than 562,500 followers. By comparison, the top American on Twitter, Lady Gaga, recently topped 30 million followers.

Another data point, reported on by TheNextWeb, suggests that China didn't even make the Top 20 list of countries whose population posts the most public tweets.

"Accurate Twitter user data is difficult to get hold of, not to mention verify, since Twitter closely guards its figures, but the gist of Semiocast's latest research tells a different story to GlobalWebIndex," wrote TheNextWeb.

"The French firm reported that, in June 2012, U.S.-based users posted the most public tweets on the service (25.8 percent) to "dominate" the 'Twitter nations.' While Semiocast found that growth was higher abroad, China failed to feature in its list of top 20 countries, nor did it have any representation in Semiocast's overview of the 20 top tweeting cities worldwide."

All of this suggests that GlobalWebIndex's numbers are misleading, or at the very least, inconclusive. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request to address the report's statistics, so there's no way to verify them. But while it's possible that there are tens of millions of Twitter users in China, it's probably safe to take those numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism.