Location: The Couchsurfing Project >> We are upset that CS has become a for-profit corporation
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The Anticorp Group calls on you : sign the petition against the new legal structure of CouchSurfing.
The Anticorp Group calls on you : sign the petition against the new legal structure of CouchSurfing.
Share this petition, send it :
- Through private message to 5 of your Couchsurfing friends.
- Post it in the forum of your city, region, country.
- Exercise your social networks.
Send it to the most famous newspaper of your country.
Your support is critic to continue fighting for a free couchsurfing, apart of the economic interest values, closer to the hospitality values. Our objective is to reach 50 000 signings.
The petition is here, SIGN IT :
Don't hesitate posting your comments at the bottom of the petition. Your opinions are very important
*The Anticorp Group calls on you : sign the petition against the new legal structure of CouchSurfing. *
To Couchsurfing Founders and Members,
CouchSurfing was created at Casey Fenton's initiative in 2003.
CouchSurfing's mission represented for the members an alternative to the dominant materialist values of our time. Refusing selfishness, indifference, individualism, we chose to offer sharing and exchange, diversity and hospitality. We learnt to enrich each other. We embraced cultural diversity. We have broken barriers. We wanted and still want to build a better world, couch after couch.
We learnt that a stranger is a friend we haven't met yet.
Casey Fenton gave much of his time and energy to build the CouchSurfing platform. But in this fabulous adventure, he did not stand alone very long. Volunteers from all over the world have been working together to build a community which is now part of their lives. This work involved thousands of members who gave as much as he did to build the community. This website has become finally one of the biggest human, non-profit, and worldwide projects the world has ever known yet.
But on Wednesday August 24th, 2011, CouchSurfing mutated from a non-profit organization into a for-profit corporation, a certified B-Corporation. The new corporation thus takes over the entire property of material and intellectual goods of CouchSurfing, which has been given in one way or another by the members. Its capital goes in part to the employees of CouchSurfing and in part to private investors. More than before, CouchSurfing members have had no say in the matter. The decision was taken unilaterally by the founders.
The founders told the membership that CouchSurfing was in danger, but the members were not at any point asked to step up and help. The resources and involvement of the members have been ignored and denied so as to pretend that privatization was the only and true solution to the crisis of the organization.
Today, a great proportion of CouchSurfing members are sad to hear that the organization has become a for-profit corporation. We want to protest against a minority of people taking possession of the benefits of 5 years worth of work that involved thousands of members. Money and work were contributed to CouchSurfing because it was being run as a non-profit organization, to enrich humanity and not to be stolen by the founders and be put at the mercy of private investors and commercial interests. Without the volunteers, CouchSurfing would have been worthless.
By signing this petition, you are expressing your indignation and your disapproval about what is unduly happening. Your help is critical to circulate widely this petition.
CS dissidents FAQ
Some of us wrote this FAQ to make it easier for people to find some basic informations that now are hidden in the middle of thousands of threads.
It seems to be a good place to start if you just got here. Feel free to copy, edit, complement, etc., and SEND IT TO YOUR FRIENDS, POST IN YOUR CITY'S GROUPS, etc.
Let's spread the information!
- Basic Issues
1) “CS belongs to Casey, he can do whatever he wants with it!”
If you are saying this it’s probably because you don’t know the history of CS. Yes, it was Casey’s idea (but not an original one, since “hospitality exchange” organizations existed long before he was born), but the execution of this idea is due to hundreds of volunteers who developed the code, who were always suggesting and adding new features, who were translating texts, etc. So, in fact, the CS site is what it is today thanks to volunteers and their work. And the fact is that they willingly contributed trusting they were donating their time and work to the community, to a non-profit organization which was a registered charity in the state of New Hampshire, and which had applied for official charity status with the USA tax authorities; and these volunteers were people like you, who used the site, who hosted people, attended meeting, made many friends, etc., not a kind of staff team who worked and was paid as employees. So it’s not true that the structure of CS belongs to Casey, actually, we believe that the structure belongs to the community which created and developed it.
2) “OK, but nothing has changed until now, why don’t you wait and see what will happen? Maybe the site will continue to be totally free and get even better!”
Though we think this is very implausible, the matter is that even if this were true and the site continued to be totally free, got better, etc, we still wouldn’t regret not being here anymore. Because the problem is that we don’t think that what has been done is ethical. So, we don’t want to be part of it anymore, we don’t want to support people we can no longer trust, people who fooled us, pretending to build a non-profit project and turning it into a corporation to make money out of it. Actually, even if for us, members of CS, there was (for the moment) no great change in the everyday practice, a lot have changed ideologically: now, instead of being a true community, we are all customers/consumers of a service sold by “Couch Surfing International, Inc.”
Like one said: “when it comes to corporate social networks, if you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.” And we don’t want it, and that’s why we are no longer offering our couches and hospitality so that a for-profit organization can sell them to customers for verification fees and as premium services, pocketing the bulk of the money and graciously donating a miniscule part to look “socially responsible”. We don’t want people making profits from the generosity of hosts and travelers. Especially, not these people in charge of CS now, people who appropriated the work of hundreds, thousands, of volunteers to themselves. Something which is not only ethically incorrect, but maybe even illegal, since one cannot appropriate the goods of a non-profit organization.
So the problem is not that we are against people getting rich or against corporations in general (even if for some of us that is true), but to the way that CS became a for-profit corporation, namely, stealing the goods of a non-profit organization.
3) “But there was no other option other” or “becoming a B-corporation was the best option.”
Well, the first sentence is not true. There were many options: shutting down CS in New Hampshire and reopening it in another place or country being the most obvious one, and that doesn’t even imply that the CS staff would need to be relocated, moving the legal structure would be enough (more about this “we did our best, there was no other alternative, we were forced to do it etc., in the item 5). The second sentence involves a question of value, and so it’s not absolute: best for whom? Best to achieve which goals? Certainly, it was not the best solution COMPATIBLE with the old CS principles (what is clear, since it forced CS to change its nature, from a non-profit organization to a real corporation).
- More technical issues
4) “OK, but Casey said that if CS quit New Hampshire, the state would reclaim 1 million dollars”
Casey is not telling the whole story, so we have to speculate: first of all, it’s not true that a non-profit organization needs to pay to close. What they have to do is give their assets to another charity or to the government. So, this statement would only be true if CS had 1 million dollars in assets, which is unlikely especially because Casey had taken the precaution not to list the member database among the assets when he incorporated CouchSurfing International Inc. in 2003. Another possibility is that this 1 million dollars is how much money CS was owing to the government in taxes. For when it was denied the federal non-profit status (the now famous 501c3), it had to pay retroactively the taxes of the past years. But this debt is not dependent on what happens to the organization.
5) “But they tried to continue to be a non-profit organization, but the US government didn’t approve it!”
In fact what the US government denied was the tax exemption, CS could continue to be a non-profit organization, though it would need to pay taxes. But more important, there are also many doubts if Casey really wanted to obtain this status, since doing it would mean passing the point of no return, that is, if this status was obtained, CS couldn't t be sold anymore. Casey also said that CS was something that was too revolutionary, and use this an excuse of the refusal by the US government, but at the same time Servas, another hospitality service obtained this status (and its complete application is public by law, and can consulted by anyone). And too many mistakes were made throughout the application and review period, which makes us suspicious. But, in order to be sure of this matter, we would need:
a) to see the refusal letter from the IRS (the U.S. government agency responsible for approving or denying the non-profit status at the federal level) which states the motives of the refusal. But we know for example that one cannot be at the same time president and CEO of the organization (as was Casey) to obtain the 501c3 status.
b) to know why every year the tax returns were filed late, which isnt’t helpful in obtaining a favorable decision from the IRS.
c) why the proportion of spending on what could be considered programs in line with the claimed charitable cause was so low.
We can see that there are some indications that he didn’t try too hard to obtain this status, what makes us think if that was really his goal, and not only to have more time to make CS grow and sell it for a higher price.
the deal between Facebook & C$
This was today posted in our FB group by Rab Neutrino :
As one of the people now appointed to the board of the CS corporation (Matt Cohler) is also a "special advisor" to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg my guess is that the most likely exit strategy for the venture capitalists will be an eventual sale of CS to Facebook.
The value of Facebook lies in it's users - to Facebook we are all a commodity providing lots of valuable personal information which can be used by to target us with specific ads. Likewise with CS it's clear that the venture capital companies saw that here was a popular social networking site with a high number of active users who provide lots of valuable personal information (likes, dislikes, where you have travelled, where you want to travel) which is of value to advertisers.
Travel is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) sector of ecommerce and while couchsurfers may not always pay for their accommodation, they do spend money on flights, on hostels when no couches are available and/or in areas where there are no couchsurfers, on travel insurance, luggage/backpacks, tours and sightseeing etc etc
Given Facebooks lack of ethics (their priority is their advertisers and revenue sources, NOT us their users) I am very unhappy about having someone so closely involved with Facebook on the board of couchsurfing. The whole ethos of couchsurfing and the altruistic nature of hosting is in conflict with a profit driven corporation whose concerns lie with increasing revenue and providing a return to the owners (including the venture capitalists who now own a stake in the couchsurfing corporation).
Examples of Facebooks lack of ethics:
Status: Former Employee
Residence: San Francisco, CA
Education: BA, Yale University
Facebook stake: .8%
Value: $680 million
Former Vice President of Product Management, Matt Cohler was the first external executive hire at Facebook and also one of the first five employees to be hired by the company's founders. Cohler joined Facebook in 2005 during the company's critical growth period and helped drive Facebook's strategy, organizational growth and product direction. Prior to Facebook, Cohler was a founding member, Vice President, and General Manager at LinkedIn. In 2008, Cohler left Facebook to become General Partner at the Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark Capital. Cohler's decision to leave Facebook came shortly after the departure of co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Adam D'Angelo, and according to some reports, has left speculation about the changing dynamic and culture of the company. However, Cohler continues to act as a special advisor to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
the Dangers of Facebook
How to delete facebook permanetly
Note: before you delete you account, it's wiser to go into your account details, and delete photos (showing your face), birthday, real name, phone number, address, and other similar information used to identify people. Otherwise, your personal information will stay locked in your account, after Facebook deactiviates it. Your information isn't erased, just deactiviated. So, it's better to wipe your acccount clean, and then delete your account. Remove links to Facebook, and don't go anywhere near Facebook for 14 days, so your deletion remains permanant.
I deleted my account today, never felt better
A message from HC, interesting to read.
How the hell do people come up with lines like this?
"The non-profit structure is not ideal in enabling innovation to occur in terms of regulatory oversight and various auditing requirements"
I don't understand 4 out of 5 words here :((
It seems that people have the right to have their donations back!
The full post is here:
http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=7621&post=3371426#post4090472 and it was made in 2009. I think they know it, and that's why they changed the badge to "pioneer", so you can feel "as part of it", and less likely you would ask for your money back.
[T]he charity status in New Hampshire depends on a positive outcome of the 501(c)(3) application. Without it, sooner or later charity status in New Hampshire will be withdrawn. This will mean: solicitations of charitable donations will become illegal, and no more volunteer visas for non-US Green Card holders can be obtained to attend work duties in the US. An organisation with a withdrawn charity status on its record may very well also be much less welcome to hold 'collectives' in other countries.
It would also mean that the nature of all past 'donations' will become disputable. As of today more than 85,000 members have been verified, the vast majority probably by making a 'donation'. A certain percentage of those will feel that the 'donation' was solicited under false pretences unless 501(c)(3) status will be obtained in the not too distant future, and even more of them in the event of charity status being withdrawn completely. They may ask for their money back. And seeing that it affects such a number of people, this may well be a typical case of a class action law suit, where individuals can join their own case to the pending action without financial risk. This may well result in Couchsurfing's bankruptcy.