Before we get started, a necessary Trigger Warning as child sexual abuse-related issues and online offenders are about to be discussed. ID's Undercover Underage is a docuseries that aims to show the process and details involved in the difficult work of Roo Powell & her team who seek to unveil online predators. SOSA, or Safe From Online Sex Abuse, is a non-profit organization followed in this series, including the ups and downs of tracking down potential predators seeking to groom and/or assault underage individuals, mainly young teen girls.
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. 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. 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.
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. Ron Simon is executive producer of Undercover Underage for discovery+.
SOSA helps combat online sexual abuse and exploitation in collaboration with and consultation from law enforcement. Using a variety of tactics — including studying offenders' language and stratagem — SOSA identifies pockets of the internet where offenders target minors and reports information to various Internet Crimes Against Children task forces throughout the US. 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.
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 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. 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.