On 10 August, The Caravan published an article detailing how the BJP’s national president Amit Shah mortgaged two of his properties to enable his son Jay Shah’s firm Kusum Finserve LLP to obtain credit facilities from a cooperative bank. The BJP president’s contingent liability with respect to this credit facility was, however, missing from his 2017 electoral affidavit. Kusum Finserve has recorded dramatic increase in credit facilities in recent years despite its poor finances. The same day, The Caravan shared the story on its verified Facebook page. As part of its effort to ensure that the news story reached the widest possible audience, The Caravan then put in a request to the social network to boost the story—a facility provided by Facebook to media organisations to help promote their posts among a specified audience. Over the past year, scores of similar requests have been placed by the company’s digital-marketing team. But this was the first instance in which its digital-marketing manager received a reply from Facebook stating that The Caravan’s post had not been boosted because it “doesn’t follow Facebook’s advertising policies.”
Facebook termed the boost an ad, and stated that the request to promote the post had been denied because it “may be for housing, employment or credit opportunities,” or that it “included a multicultural affinity segment in your audience.” The social network’s notification continued: “If so, you’ll need to certify that you’ll comply with our policy prohibiting discrimination and with applicable anti-discrimination laws. Once you certify, we’ll review any disapproved ads from the past three days. Typically, this review takes a few minutes.”
The same day, The Caravan appealed Facebook’s decision on the post. Through its verified page, the publication clicked on the option to submit the post for review, and added a note clarifying that the post was regarding a news story of political relevance. Over the next week, no reply was received on the review request.