WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department said Wednesday it is reviewing a U.S. Embassy's use of a wildly popular Vietnamese website laden with suspected pirated music and Hollywood movies to promote American values, including respect for intellectual property rights.
Spokesman Mark Toner said the Hanoi embassy's social media account with Zing.vn was created to reach out to Vietnamese youth in a restricted environment but that concerns about digital piracy on the site had prompted it to reconsider.
"Vietnam is a demanding environment for public diplomacy and for reaching appropriate audiences on any given bilateral or multilateral issue," Toner told reporters. He said the embassy started its "Zingme" account "as a way to deliver important messages on a range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including intellectual property rights."
"That said, I can say that the use of this particular site is now under review," Toner said. He added that the review was being conducted because "some of the contents of this website are suspect and run counter to our Internet freedom policy."
He could not say when the review would be completed.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that the embassy's use of the Zingme account had raised questions about whether Washington is legitimizing a site suspected of violating intellectual property rights that the U.S. vocally supports.
The free-to-download bonanza has pushed Zing into the ranks of the world's top 550 websites, boosting concerns about the content available on the site from record labels, singers and industry groups that say it repeatedly has ignored requests to take down material.
Coca-Cola and Samsung pulled their advertising from the site earlier this month because of piracy concerns following questions from the AP.
The embassy had said it recognized the concerns for U.S. copyright interests posed by Zing but maintained that contact with the website's users could reduce traffic or infringe activity on it. The mission sometimes uses its Zingme page to post about copyright infringement, it said.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which praised the decision by Samsung and Coke to withdrawn from Zing and has labeled Zing a "notorious" pirate site, said it was neither endorsing nor criticizing the embassy's decision to maintain the site.