Steven Salaita, whose controversial tweets about Israel's invasion of Gaza prompted the University of Illinois to withdraw his job offer in August, was briefly removed from Twitter on Wednesday.
Salaita's followers started tweeting around 4 p.m. that his account had been suspended and demanding to know why:
— U of Maryland SJP (@UMD_SJP) October 8, 2014
Did Twitter just suspend Steven Salaita's account? If so, Twitter, you've just entered a world of pain.
— Yasmin Nair (@NairYasmin) October 8, 2014
Salaita then tweeted around 4:45 p.m. that he had been "dinged for retweeting a Spam message as a joke."
His followers reacted with relief and humor.
@stevesalaita Relieved. I was worried that Twitter had retroactively fired you.
— Matthew Rindge (@mattrindge) October 8, 2014
Twitter's policy states that accounts are generally suspended for violations of Twitter rules, or "if we suspect an account has been hacked or compromised." Among other prohibitions, the rules bar the use of a Twitter account for spam.
Salaita is currently on a speaking tour, with appearances this week at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Columbia College and Loyola University. He canceled a talk at the UI's Chicago campus on Tuesday, citing advice from his legal team.
Salaita and his lawyers have indicated that they will take legal action against the University of Illinois soon.
A university search committee offered Salaita a tenure-track faculty job in the American Indian Studies Program back in October 2013. He accepted and quit his job at Virginia Tech, planning to teach at the UI this fall.
After his politically charged tweets critical of Israel's invasion of Gaza received scrutiny, Chancellor Phyllis Wise notified him in August that she would not forward his appointment to the board for approval, prompting an outcry about violations of free speech and academic freedom. Trustees rejected the appointment last month.
After taking a break from tweeting and speaking publicly, Salaita in recent weeks has returned to social media, thanking supporters online and launching his speaking tour.