Porn, Scams, And Violence: The Dark Side Of Elon Musk's Starlink "Gift" To Amazon Tribe

By Victor Smiroff | Wednesday, 05 June 2024 03:00 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by SpaceX - SpaceNews

In the heart of the Amazon rainforest, a remote tribe in Brazil is grappling with the unforeseen consequences of modern technology.

The Marubo tribe, a community of 2,000 members residing along the Ituí River, was introduced to the digital world last September through Elon Musk's Starlink service. The tribe's sudden immersion into the World Wide Web, facilitated by 20 antennas donated by American entrepreneur Allyson Reneau, has led to a profound cultural divide.

Starlink, a network of 6,000 low-orbiting satellites, delivers high-speed internet to the most remote corners of the globe. Musk has touted this service as a revolutionary tool for global connectivity. However, the Marubo tribe's experience paints a more complex picture.

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The introduction of the internet initially brought joy and optimism to the Marubo tribe. Tsainama Marubo, a 73-year-old elder, recalled the initial excitement, telling The New York Times, "When it arrived, everyone was happy." The internet provided a lifeline to the outside world, enabling the tribe to swiftly contact authorities in emergencies, including potentially fatal snake bites. "It's already saved lives," confirmed Enoque Marubo, 40.

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The internet also facilitated educational exchanges with other Amazonian tribes and allowed the Marubo to reconnect with relatives living elsewhere. For the younger generation, the digital world unveiled a realm of possibilities beyond their immediate environment. Dreams of global travel and professional aspirations began to take root among the youth.

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However, the tribe's digital euphoria was short-lived. The internet's darker side soon emerged, with young tribe members becoming increasingly engrossed in social media and pornography, much to the elders' dismay. Tsainama Marubo lamented, "Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet. They're learning the ways of the white people."

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Enoque Marubo echoed these concerns, stating, "It changed the routine so much that it was detrimental. In the village, if you don't hunt, fish and plant, you don't eat." TamaSay Marubo, 42, added, "Others just want to spend the whole afternoon on their phones."

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The tribe's leaders have since imposed restrictions on internet usage, limiting access to two hours each morning, five hours each evening, and all day Sunday. Despite these measures, Alfredo Marubo expressed his fears about the potential erosion of the tribe's oral history and culture. He also voiced concerns about the internet's influence on the tribe's sexual behavior and decorum, particularly among the young men.

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Kâipa Marubo, a father in the tribe, shared his anxiety about his children's exposure to violent video games, fearing they might want to imitate them. Other tribe members have fallen prey to internet scams due to their lack of digital literacy.

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Flora Dutra, a Brazilian activist who assisted in connecting the Marubo tribe to the internet, argued that most tribespeople "wanted and deserved" access to the World Wide Web. She dismissed the criticisms as ethnocentrism, stating, "The white man thinking they know what's best."

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However, some officials in Brazil have expressed concerns about the potential loss of unique cultures and customs due to the digital intrusion into these remote communities. As the Marubo tribe navigates this digital divide, their experience serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of introducing modern technology into traditional societies.

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