NEW DOCUSERIES "UNDERCOVER UNDERAGE" FOLLOWS ROO POWELL AS SHE IDENTIFIES SOME OF THE INTERNET'S MOST DANGEROUS CHILD PREDATORS
-- Six-Part True Crime Series Premieres on discovery+ starting Tuesday, November 2 --
(New York, NY) -- 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 nonprofit 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 new 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 begin streaming on discovery+ on Tuesday, November 2. New episodes will stream every Tuesday.
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.
"The online world can be a perilous space for children and we are so grateful for the work SOSA does to ensure that kids can feel, and be, safer on the internet, " said Jason Sarlanis, President of Crime and Investigative Content. "In Undercover Underage we embed with Roo and her team to offer a harrowing, first-hand look at how they operate. Their mission to expose the dangers lurking online is intense, dangerous, and critical... now more than ever. The realities they uncover are startling and the parents of every internet connected child need to watch this show."
"Online sexual abuse and exploitation can happen quickly and quietly. A minor can be alone in their room and someone can be abusing them via their phone 2,000 miles away," said Roo Powell, founder of SOSA. "And complicating matters is the fact that this kind of abuse isn't as well known, leaving a lot of kids and teens feeling confused, ashamed, and isolated. My hope is through broadening awareness with this show, we can prevent sex abuse and exploitation of children online, as well as empower parents and caregivers to be a compassionate support system for kids in their communities."
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 helps combat online sex 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.
discovery+ is the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service. discovery+ has the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service at launch, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a strong leadership position, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and a slate of high-quality documentaries. For more, visit discoveryplus.com or find it on a variety of platforms and devices, including ones from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Samsung.