That's not good.
Is having internet access everywhere in the world always a good thing? On one hand, sure, there's a humanitarian case for it. On the other? Look no further than Elon Musk's satellite-powered internet Starlink becoming the preferred internet provider of *checks notes* illegal Brazilian mining operations in the Amazon, according to a new, slightly surreal Associated Press report.
In a Tuesday raid of an illegal mining site, officials from the Brazilian environmental officials reportedly discovered "one Starlink terminal up and running" next to an illegal mining pit in an area called Ouro Mill.
The area is controlled by a criminal organization called "The First Command of the Capital," a group regarded as the biggest — and according to the report, the most feared — criminal operation in the country.
This is just the latest Starlink terminal seized in busts of mining operations. The Brazilian environment agency, Ibama, told the AP they've recovered seven Starlink terminals from similar illegal operations — all of which were taking place on the indigenous Yanomami peoples' important and protected land — in the past five weeks alone.
The Brazilian government has been dealing with illegal miners for years. According to the AP, such operations have long relied on satellite internet to carry out their work.But using it was cumbersome before Starlink showed up.
The old systems were clunkier, needed technicians, and those technicians had to be flown in and out. Meanwhile, Starlink is a much more seamless alternative, offering criminal rings a number of essential services — from the classics, like admin and logistical coordination, to assisting the illegal miners with some more, uh, criminal things. Or as the AP put it, "advance warning of law enforcement raids." Helpful!
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To make matters worse: when Starlink was first launched in Brazil back in May 2022, it was marketed in part as a helpful aid to those working to protect the Amazon — not those doing the exact opposite.
Of course, it's not necessarily Musk's fault Brazilian crime rings took to his tech. But even so, bad actors have certainly taken a shining to the satellite service, which seems to be very effective for their business. Interestingly, Starlink seems widely available for Brazilian criminals, but was throttled by the company in Ukraine just a month ago.
Starlink "is extremely fast and really improves the ability to manage an illegal mine," Hugo Loss, operations coordinator for Ibama, told the AP. "You can manage hundreds of mining sites without ever setting foot in one."
READ MORE: Musk brought internet to Brazil's Amazon. Criminals love it. [The Associate Press]
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