Recognizing and Reporting Abuse

What is abuse?
How do I report abuse?
Will reported content always be removed?
What if someone tries to misuse the system?
What kinds of content should I report?

Couchsurfing is a self-moderating community, which means that we rely on members like you to keep our network safe and true to our mission and vision. One important way that you can help is by reporting website abuse.

What is abuse?
Content that violates Couchsurfing's Terms of Use  is considered an abuse of our website and our community. We do not allow people to use our system to make money, to sexually harass or threaten our members, or to otherwise violate our community guidelines. For more information, please see our examples below.

How do I report abuse?
Throughout the website, you'll see this icon.  

It appears on messages, groups, group posts, events, and profiles.

Click it, and you'll be asked to indicate specifically why you think the content is abusive.
 

Then, confirm to record your report in our system.
 

And that's it! Our system automatically tracks reports of abuse, and our team will remove content when necessary. With a few clicks, you help us keep abuse off of the Couchsurfing website.  

Will reported content always be removed?
We may remove the content, if it is explicitly against our Terms of Use. More frequently we will send the member who created it a warning explaining that they should avoid creating similar content in the future. We err on the side of leaving the content visible because it is important to respect our members' freedom of expression when possible.

What if someone tries to misuse the system?
Our team monitors all reported abuse. If we suspect that a member is intentionally over-reporting or falsely reporting abuse, we will take action.

What kinds of content should I report?
We've compiled a list of examples to help you understand the situations in which a profile, message, group post, group or event may be considered abusive.
Use this list for guidance, but please remember that each individual case is different. Your own judgment is the best measure. It's important to take context, cultural norms, personal communication style, language barriers, and other factors into consideration when choosing whether to report a specific piece of content.  

Profiles


Especially in the case of profiles, Couchsurfing is careful to protect members' freedom of expression. This is a community value, and it's also a matter of safety. The more honest members are about themselves, the more educated other members are when making decisions.  



Abusive Not Abusive

Members who charge for their couch or otherwise ask for money in exchange for hospitality

"My roommates don't like to use CS, so I need to ask for $10 a night while you stay."

"I can't host, but I can arrange for you to rent my friend's apartment for the week."

Members who put restrictions on their profile for financial reasons but do not ask for money

"Water is very expensive here, so if you want to shower more than once while you're here you'll have to go to the gym around the corner."

  Members who own or operate a business and require that Couchsurfers use their service.

"I own a hostel where you can stay at a discount."

"I own a white water rafting company, and if you take one of my trips I can host you."

Members who own or operate a business and disclose this in their profile in a purely informative way.

"I own a hostel, so if you encounter any of my paying guests please don't tell them that you're staying for free."

"I own a white water rafting company, so I may not be home on weekends."

Members that advertise their business, product, service, or other for-profit venture. 

"You can't use my kitchen, so please eat at my restaurant." 

Profiles that mention a business or for-profit venture in a purely informative way.

"I'm a bartender at the Falstaff, so for those of you locals who hang out there, look for me and say hello!" 

 

Dating spam profiles.

"I am looking for a European husband so that I can get a visa."

Profiles that indicate sexual interest (we wouldn't want to meet them, either -- but we'd much rather know that before we arrive at their house!) 

"I have a couch, but I think you would be more comfortable in my bed with me. Sexy single ladies only, LOL!"

 

False profiles, such as for a celebrity, a pet, or a fictional character.

"My name is Fluffy the Cat. My interests include eating sardines, scratching furniture, and chasing birds."  

Official CS profiles, such as Couchsurfing Communications.




Messages


Couchsurfing tracks reports of abusive messages so that we can identify spammers and others who habitually misuse the messaging system. If you receive an inappropriate message from someone you know, or as part of an ongoing issue, do not report it as abuse. Instead, please contact us  with a link to the profile of the other member and a brief explanation of the issue. That way, our team can understand the specifics of your situation and take appropriate action.

Abusive Not Abusive

A response to a CouchRequest that asks for money.

"Sure, you can stay with me! This city is expensive, though, so I ask Couchsurfers to contribute $5 per night."

"Sorry, I can't host that weekend, but I can arrange for you to rent my friend's apartment."

A response to a CouchRequest that has restrictions for financial reasons, but doesn't ask for money.

"Sure, you can stay with me! Just so you know, though, water is very expensive here so I ask my Couchsurfers to use the shower around the corner at the gym."

Information about a business or a request for money from a member you don't know and haven't contacted.

"Hello, welcome to my city. My hostel, the Green Iguana, is cheap and has a good breakfast." 

"Hi, I'm traveling in your town. I'm selling handmade jewelry to fund my travels, would you like to meet up and see if you'd like to buy anything?"
 

    

Information about a business from someone you have contacted.

"I'm sorry, I can't host next week. If you get stuck, some of my friends have recommended the Chalet Backpackers to me." 

"I'm sorry, I own a hostel so I no longer host, but I'd be happy to meet for lunch."
 

Dating spam or sexual harassment.

"Hi, you're sexy. I love girls with red hair. If you're single and looking, I'm free this weekend." 

"I've looked at your pictures and you are so hot." 

Miscommunication due to a language barrier.

"Yes, I will host you, you are nice looking." (If the rest of the message is inoffensive, perhaps they meant "you seem nice"?) 

Offensive or threatening messages from someone you don't know.

"Get out of my city, I hate people from your country. If I met you, I'd beat you up."

Offensive or threatening messages from someone you know. Instead, please contact us  with a link to the profile of the other member and a brief explanation of the issue.


"I know you hit on my boyfriend when you stayed with me, you slut. If I ever see you again you better watch out!" 



Group Posts

It's important to remember that groups are often the online representation of local Couchsurfing communities. When deciding whether a group post is abusive, please consider the intentions of the member who created it, as well as their relationship to the community. Is this a real Couchsurfer trying to share legitimate information? Or is it someone who joined only to post advertisements?

If you think a member may have posted something abusive only because they misunderstood the group's guidelines, it's not always necessary to report it as abuse. A gentle response post explaining their mistake will help them learn for the next time.

Abusive Not Abusive

 
A post that shows your private contact information without your consent.

"Call Jenny at 867-5309, I met her last time I was in that city and thought she was an amazing person!"

A post where a member chooses to share their own private contact information (note: we do not recommend doing this, but we don't consider it to be abuse).

"If you get lost on the way to the event, call me at 867-5309 and I'll give you directions." 

An unsolicited post advertising a member's  business, product, service, or other for-profit venture.

"This week only, kayak tours are on sale at my outdoor sports company, Blue River!"

A post recommending a business or for-profit venture in response to a request for information.

First post: "Does anyone know anywhere that offers a cheap kayaking tour?"

Response: "Blue River is having a sale this week."

A post inviting members to an event from which the poster will make money.

"I’m a musician and I’ll perform at the CS weekly meet-up for less than my normal price!”

A post inviting members to an event at a for-profit venture.
 
"Tonight there's live music at the Penny Bar. I'm going to go around 9. I might be able to give my table a 10% discount." 

A post that advertises an apartment being rented for profit.

"Cute 3BR, sunny kitchen, contact Star Realty."

Posts from Couchsurfers looking for an apartment or roommates (if it's allowed in the group's guidelines).

"My roommate is moving out next month, and I'd love to live with someone who likes to host as much as I do."

"I'm moving to Seattle next month and need an apartment. If you know someone who needs a roommate, please let me know!"

An advertisement that is out of context and clearly for-profit only.

For example, in the scuba diving group:

"For sale: beautiful, nearly-new tuxedo.”

A Couchsurfer who would like to sell something of theirs which is clearly of interest to the group (if this is allowed in the group's guidelines).

For example, in the Rock Climbing Group: 

"Hello fellow rock-climbers: Unfortunately I've been injured, so it looks like I won't be seeing you out there anymore. I'm going to be selling most of my gear, if anyone's interested."

 

A Couchsurfer who is looking for a product or service (if this is allowed in the group's guidelines).

"I'd like to improve my German. Is anyone here a language teacher?"

"Does anyone have a backpack they aren't using anymore and could sell to me?"

Groups

Groups are an important place for members to express themselves, and we are very careful to avoid censoring them. In some rare instances, we may choose to remove a group.



Abusive Not Abusive

A group that negatively targets a specific group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

A group that supports a controversial  belief.

A group that is associated with planning an event that has been removed.

"Planners for A For-Profit Party!"

 

A group that is meant to promote a business.

"Sherpa Hiking Tour Company"

 



Events

As with groups, Couchsurfing is careful to protect members' right to gather in the ways that they choose to. In some rare instances, we may choose to remove an event.



Abusive Not Abusive

An event organized to make a profit, such as:

  • if the organizers are charging a cover;
  • there is no indication of a way for Couchsurfers to meet at the event.

 

An event that involves payment, such as:

  • if the venue charges a cover;
  • if several Couchsurfers choose to attend a paid event together;
  • if attendees are asked to pool money to pay for food, drinks, venue, etc.

An event listing that is not actually an event

"Two guys traveling to Perth Aug.15 need a couch!"

"For sale: 1997 Toyota Camry."

"Nice apartment for rent downtown."