In a recent revelation, a bug on the popular online community platform Reddit has caused offensive slurs to appear in URLs, occasionally surfacing on Google search results. The bug allows unexpected characters, including a highly inappropriate term, to be added to the subdomains of Reddit links, leading to URLs that include offensive language. This discovery was made during a routine search related to a lighthearted debate within The Verge’s Slack channel, uncovering a concerning issue that has potential implications for Reddit’s content visibility on search engines.
During a Google search on a topic related to a Slack debate within The Verge, a staff member stumbled upon Reddit links with subdomains containing unexpected characters and offensive slurs. For instance, URLs such as https://2goback-.reddit.com/r/ were observed, despite the additional characters, directing users to Reddit pages with the Old Reddit layout.
Upon further investigation, it was found that this issue was not limited to a specific query but manifested across various links from different subreddits. A Reddit site search on Google for the offensive subdomain revealed multiple links from diverse subreddits containing the same inappropriate term. Users also discovered that altering the word following “2goback-” in the subdomain with other words still resulted in functional URLs.
After inquiries were made regarding this unsettling discovery, Reddit spokesperson Courtney Geesey-Dorr confirmed the existence of the bug. Geesey-Dorr explained that Reddit became aware of the issue approximately a week or two ago, acknowledging that any words and phrases could be manipulated on a post page hyperlink leading back to Reddit. The company is actively working on a fix and collaborating with appropriate partners to address this bug promptly.
“We became aware of a bug, a week or two ago, that allows any words and phrases to be updated and manipulated on a post page hyperlink that leads back to Reddit. We’re working with the appropriate partners on a fix. For context, we’ve found that Google will index URLs that work that it finds, both on and off platform, so if someone shared a link on another platform to one of those arbitrary URLs, Google will crawl and index it, even if we don’t ‘officially’ support it,” stated Geesey-Dorr.
In response to the issue, Google spokesperson Jennifer Kutz provided a statement, indicating that the problem appears to be related to a configuration issue on Reddit, allowing the creation of alternative URLs for Reddit content. Google expressed its commitment to preventing unexpected and offensive content from appearing in search results and stated that they would explore ways to address this issue in the future.
“This issue appears to be related to a configuration issue on Reddit that makes it possible to create alternative URLs for Reddit content. On Search, we aim not to surprise anyone with content that wasn’t explicitly searched for, and we’ll look into ways to prevent this issue from occurring in the future,” said Kutz.
As Reddit works diligently to rectify the bug, users are urged to exercise caution when clicking on Reddit links, especially those appearing in Google search results. The incident highlights the potential vulnerabilities in online platforms and the need for swift responses to such issues to maintain a safe and appropriate online environment. Both Reddit and Google’s commitment to resolving the matter demonstrates the importance of addressing bugs that could compromise user experience and content integrity. As the story unfolds, users will be eagerly awaiting the resolution of this issue and increased vigilance from online platforms to prevent similar incidents in the future