Queensland researchers have filled Twitter’s silence on Australian user numbers, estimating there are over 2.8 million accounts, rising at 50,000 a month.

Twitter is gaining about 50,000 Australian accounts a month, according to the first study that quantifies the platform’s local footprint.

In September last year there were 2.8 million Australian accounts, Queensland University of Technology researchers report.

That number has almost certainly now passed 3 million, lead researcher Dr Axel Bruns said.

Twitter has 271 million active monthly users worldwide, according to financial results released last week, a rise of 24 per cent in 12 months.

But the company has never disclosed Australian figures.

“We still know very little about the use of Twitter in Australia,” Dr Bruns said.

To clarify things, his team used data-mining tools to retrieve publicly available profile information from the more than 750 million Twitter profiles in existence.

Researchers then put all accounts through a filter, looking for mentions of Australia and Australian states, territories, cities and towns.

They also looked for accounts aligned with one of eight Australian time zones.

To eliminate false positives, the team screened for fictional locations, such as 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, used in the animated film Finding Nemo.

The estimate of 2.8 million accounts represents about 12 per cent of Australia’s population, though Dr Bruns cautioned some users may operate multiple accounts, and other accounts are shared between more than one user.

Facebook boasted in December of 12 million monthly active Australian users, nine million of whom use the platform daily.

Twitter has sought to downplay comparisons to Facebook, maintaining that the two services are different, and that its content spreads more broadly across the web and other media.

Dr Bruns said his team’s research showed Australian Twitter users tend to be affluent and well educated.

Canberra’s concentration of journalists, politicians and professionals give the capital the highest per capita usage at about 30 per cent, he said.

Usage tends to converge around “clusters” of interest, he said, such as news, politics, sport, arts or music.

The platform is more popular in cities than the bush.

He said future research would examine who Australians follow, how often they tweet, and how they compare with the rest of the world.