A Reddit bug is allowing slurs to get added to Reddit URLs — and those URLs occasionally appear prominently on Google.
Content warning: the following story includes mentions of a slur.
Here’s what we’ve observed. While Googling something related to a lighthearted debate in The Verge’s Slack, one staffer found that some of the Reddit links that surfaced had a subdomain with unexpected characters and a slur before reddit.com: https://2goback-[f-word].reddit.com/r/[rest of the URL]. Despite the additional characters, the link points to Reddit (though the page had the Old Reddit layout).
The slur didn’t just appear for that query. A Reddit site search on Google for the subdomain reveals a bunch of links from different subreddits that have it. (You can see that site search here). A few Reddit users have noticed the phenomenon over the last day. We also found that you can change the word after “2goback-” in the subdomain with other words, and the URLs will still work. For example, this one where we swapped in “verge.”
The slur doesn’t appear on every Reddit-related query. I’ve only seen it through the very specific query my colleague stumbled upon and when searching specifically for the inappropriate URL on Reddit and Google. In my regular browsing, Reddit links show up as normal.
After we asked about this, Reddit spokesperson Courtney Geesey-Dorr confirmed that the company is aware of the issue and said this is a bug:
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.
We asked Google about this, too, and received the following statement from spokesperson Jennifer Kutz:
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.
Hopefully this issue is fixed soon.