A remote tribe in Brazil, the Marubo, has found itself bitterly divided just nine months after gaining access to satellite internet through Elon Musk’s Starlink service. The 2,000-member tribe, residing along the Ituí River deep in the Amazon rainforest, was connected to the internet last September thanks to a donation of 20 antennas by American entrepreneur Allyson Reneau.

Starlink, which connects these antennas to 6,000 low-orbiting satellites, promises super-fast internet to even the most isolated areas, a revolutionary technology touted by Musk. Initially, the internet was celebrated by the Marubo, as it enabled swift contact with authorities during emergencies, such as treating deadly snake bites, and facilitated educational exchanges with other Amazonian tribes.

“It’s already saved lives,” said Enoque Marubo, 40, highlighting the immediate benefits of this modern connectivity.

However, the arrival of the internet has not been without significant downsides. Many youngsters in the tribe have become addicted to social media and pornography, much to the alarm of tribal elders who see these influences as corrupting their traditional way of life.

“When it arrived, everyone was happy,” Tsainama Marubo, 73, told The New York Times. “But now, things have gotten worse. Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet. They’re learning the ways of the white people.”

Enoque Marubo echoed these sentiments, noting the drastic changes to daily life. “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,” he explained. Some young people have abandoned these traditional activities, preferring to spend their time on smartphones.

The tribe has had to implement strict internet usage policies, limiting access to two hours each morning, five hours each evening, and all day Sunday, in an effort to mitigate the negative impact. Despite these restrictions, concerns remain. Alfredo Marubo expressed fears that the constant connectivity might erode their culture, which is traditionally passed down orally. “Everyone is so connected that sometimes they don’t even talk to their own family,” he lamented.

The tribe, known for its chaste customs, now faces the challenge of maintaining its cultural standards in the face of new influences. Alfredo Marubo noted that young men have been sharing pornographic videos in group chats, leading to more “aggressive sexual behavior.” He worries that this exposure could lead to a desire to emulate what they see online.

Other issues have also arisen. Kâipa Marubo expressed concern over his children playing violent first-person shooter games, fearing they might mimic the violence. Additionally, many tribespeople have fallen victim to internet scams due to a lack of digital literacy, and youngsters are chatting with strangers on social media, potentially exposing them to further risks.

Flora Dutra, a Brazilian activist who helped connect the Marubo to the internet, argues that these anxieties are exaggerated. She insists that most tribespeople “wanted and deserved” access to the World Wide Web. Yet, some Brazilian officials have criticized the rollout, warning that unique cultures and customs could be irrevocably lost.

“This is called ethnocentrism,” Dutra said of the critiques. “The white man thinking they know what’s best.”

As the Marubo grapple with the benefits and drawbacks of modern technology, their story serves as a stark reminder of the complex impact of globalization on indigenous cultures. The balance between embracing new opportunities and preserving traditional ways of life remains a delicate and contentious issue.