- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi has deactivated its account on a popular Vietnamese website that’s full of suspected pirated music and Hollywood movies, the State Department said Wednesday

The embassy had used its social media account with ZingMe to promote American values, including respect for intellectual property rights. But its presence had raised questions about digital piracy on the site and led to a review.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the suspension is part of a dialogue with ZingMe’s parent company, VNG, about intellectual property rights and digital piracy. He said the embassy hopes to be able to reactivate its account after “adequate progress” is made on the property rights issue.

The review was ordered after The Associated Press reported last month that the embassy’s ZingMe account had raised questions about whether Washington was legitimizing a site accused of piracy.

At the time, the department said the account was created to reach out to Vietnamese youth in a restricted environment. It said the review was being conducted because “some of the contents of this website are suspect and run counter to our Internet freedom policy.”

Officials familiar with the review said there had been spirited internal debate about whether the embassy should continue to use the site. Those officials said the department’s human rights and public diplomacy bureaus were in favor of letting the embassy remaining on ZingMe because of the site’s huge reach, particularly to Vietnamese youth. The officials said that position was countered by the department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, which takes the lead on intellectual property rights issues.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the review publicly.

The free-to-download bonanza has pushed Zing into the ranks of the world’s top 550 websites, while also raising concerns about the content available on the site. Record labels, singers and industry groups say the site repeatedly has ignored requests to take down material.

Coca-Cola and Samsung pulled their advertising from the site this month because of piracy concerns following questions from the AP.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which praised the decision by Samsung and Coke to withdrawn from Zing and has labeled Zing a “notorious” pirate site, said it was neither endorsing nor criticizing the embassy’s decision.