Remote Amazon Tribe's Access to Elon Musk's Starlink Internet Causes Division Over Social Media Addiction, Porn Access

An elderly tribe member lamented that access to the internet has made young people lazy: "They're learning the ways of the white people."

Signage of a Starlink building with the company's logo prominently displayed. "By SpaceX" is written on the lower left part of the structure
Picture Alliance via Getty Images
Signage of a Starlink building with the company's logo prominently displayed. "By SpaceX" is written on the lower left part of the structure

A remote Amazon tribe of roughly 2,000 people has quickly learned that as much of a benefit internet access can provide, it comes with many new issues.

An extensive report from The New York Times has detailed how the Marubo people have been divided ever since they connected to Elon Musk's satellite internet service, Starlink. They're one of many Indigenous tribes in Brazil that have been provided internet access ever since Musk's company launched its services there in 2022, and it's had a major impact on the closed civilization in one of the most remote regions on earth.

73-year-old Tsainama Marubo said there's been an immediate change, despite the clear benefits internet access has provided them. “When it arrived, everyone was happy," she said. "But now, things have gotten worse." Perhaps one of the most noticeable ways it has impacted the tribe, she said, is how it has made young people in the tribe lazier. "Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet," she said. "They’re learning the ways of the white people."

Despite her concern, she added, "But please don't take our internet away."

When the Times spoke with the Marubo tribe about Starlink, they had already had access to the service for nine months. It's provided them with communication to the outside world in many beneficial ways, but it has also allowed access to social media designed to keep people glued to their phones, swathes of misinformation, potential scams, and pornography.

"Some young people maintain our traditions, others just want to spend the whole afternoon on their phones," said 42-year-old TamaSay Marubo, the first woman leader among the Marubo. "Everyone is so connected that sometimes they don’t even talk to their own family," added Alfredo Marubo, who said pornography access is his biggest concern.

"We’re worried young people are going to want to try it," he added, explaining that young men and boys in the tribe have started to share sexually explicit videos in group chats. Some leaders in the area noticed that young men have since shown "more aggressive sexual behavior" since gaining access to the internet.

Another leader, Enoque Marubo, is one of those responsible for bringing the tribe into the modern age. His father, Sebastião, was one of the first members to live outside the forest and was responsible for introducing a boat motor to them in the '60s. Sebastião said that a Marubo shama foretold of a hand-held device that could provide access to the outside world decades ago. "It would be for the good of the people. But in the end, it wouldn't be," he said. "In the end, there would be war."

Despite the concerns, leaders have "been clear" that there's no going back now. "We can't live without the internet," said Enoque.

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