A spokesperson for Twitter Europe confirmed that the site was down, while users in South Africa, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Uganda also reported problems accessing the site with the hashtag #twitterdown on Facebook.

Users in affected countries were met with the message: "Something is technically wrong".

After a shutdown lasting about an hour yesterday morning, the site was back online in London and Paris – but users in both the cities experienced intermittent service in the afternoon again.

Users elsewhere, including Russia, were also experiencing problems.

Many took to Facebook to report the outage with the hashtag #twitterdown.

The shutdown was also the butt of jokes from some social media channels, with a private British TV channel posting on its Facebook page: "Twitter is down. Worker productivity hits record levels. UK is out of recession!!!"

Rick Devens, a local US radio host, posted on Facebook: "We may never get back some of the clever thoughts I had during this tragic outage."

Twitter has regularly suffered outages since its launch in 2006, but generally of a shorter duration. Its social media rivals Facebook and Instagram have also had to deal with brief shutdowns.