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U.S. police behind most requests for Twitter information

Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo gestures during a conference at the Cannes Lions in Cannes June 20, 2012. Cannes Lions is the International Festival of creativity. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Law enforcement agencies in the United States are behind the overwhelming majority of requests for Twitter users’ private information, the social media company revealed Monday in its first ever public report on the subject.

Of the 849 total government requests for user information during the period spanning January 1 to June 30 this year, 679 -- or 80 percent -- took place in the United States, typically for use in criminal investigations, Twitter said.

Japan was in second place after the United States with 98 requests filed by police, followed by 11 requests from law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom and the same number from agencies in Canada.

Twitter, which was credited last year for fueling social unrest, from revolutions in the Middle East to Occupy protests in U.S. cities, has increasingly been pulled into criminal prosecutions as it gains popularity as an often-anonymous broadcast network.

On Monday, a New York judge ruled that the company must hand over tweets published by Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protestor arrested during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge in October. Twitter had fought to dismiss a request from prosecutors seeking the tweets as evidence, arguing that they belonged to Harris under the company’s terms of service.

The company, which published the data in a blog post on Monday, also revealed it had received a total of six governments requests over the past half-year to remove tweets that violated court injunctions or local laws, such as anti-defamation statutes.

Twitter also received a total of 3,378 copyright takedown notices, the company said.

Reporting By Gerry Shih; Editing by Andrew Hay