Undercover Underage Updated News
Every day, countless adults use the internet with insidious intentions to groom, sexually exploit, and abuse children online. With the ability to remain anonymous and virtually untraceable, many of these perpetrators manage to slip under the radar or evade detection entirely, leaving unsuspecting children vulnerable to the abuse that lies just beyond their screens. Through her organization SOSA (Safe from Online Sex Abuse), child advocate Roo Powell has built a team that works in collaboration with law enforcement to detect offenders who prey on unsuspecting kids. Undercover Underage follows the team in real time as they transform Roo, a 38-year-old mother of three, into a teen persona and work to reveal the true identities of the men who reach out to her. It’s a race against time to identify the suspects before they discover Roo herself is not who she claims to be. This six-part docuseries will give insight into how SOSA works to successfully track down some of the internet’s most dangerous child predators. The first two episodes of Undercover Underage will air on ID on Thursday, February 24 at 9 and 10 pm ET/PT, with episodes airing weekly on Thursdays at 9 pm ET/PT.
In Undercover Underage, Roo and the team at SOSA create carefully crafted stories, social media profiles and photos to help Roo transform into a teen online. The series follows strategic social media lead, Shelby Chikazawa; photographer and visuals lead, Matt Monath; writer and story developer, Avalon Esposito; research lead Kelly Becker; and law enforcement officer, Sergeant Mark Suda, as they create and operate three separate personas of fictitious, underage girls, each living unrelated lives in different cities across the country. Once adults engage with Roo’s underage decoys — which sometimes takes only minutes — the team communicates with them via texts, calls, and even distressing video chats to gather pieces of information about their real identities.
Every adult that contacts the teenage decoys is explicitly told from the outset that they are speaking to an underage girl, and are given the opportunity to cease communication at any point. It’s a good scenario when someone disengages immediately after discovering they’re interacting with a teen, but all too often, the situation escalates almost immediately when the person responds with a graphic photo or request. For those who choose to proceed with explicit exchanges with a supposed minor, the team mobilizes to put a name to the offender. Many are operating under their own fake identity, which makes finding a true identification tricky and complicated. Once the team at SOSA has enough information for a positive identification, they turn over their findings to law enforcement. With suspected predators ranging from school employees to high-profile community figures, it’s a race against the clock to get these individuals on law enforcement’s radar to keep them from continuing their crimes.
Ron Simon is executive producer of Undercover Underage for discovery+.
About Roo Powell
Roo Powell is an award-winning writer, child advocate, and founder of SOSA, a non-profit committed to raising awareness and combating the pervasiveness of online child sex abuse and exploitation. Her writing and work reflect her passion and advocacy for human rights, covering sex trafficking, poverty, race relations, and child wellness. She has been featured as a writer, speaker, and advocate in/at SXSW, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, Nightline, Sunrise Australia, CTV, BuzzFeed, Expo East, Huffington Post, Parents, HLN, BlogHer, Mom 2.0 Summit, Dad 2.0 Summit, Unilever Corporate, and various other news outlets.
Roo previously sat on the board for The Cove, a non-profit that services children who have lost a parent or a sibling. Roo currently serves as an advisor to Spectrum Labs, a venture-backed AI company that keeps over 1 billion+ users safe online through text and audio moderation.
SOSA supports abuse survivors, spearheads child abuse prevention initiatives, advocates for better and broader online safety, provides empathy-led education to young people, helps build technology that makes online platforms safer, and signal boosts the work of other organizations who strive to make a difference for kids all over the world.