An Aussie TikTok creator has apologised to the woman at the centre of a viral video which sparked heated backlash and prompted a conversation about the right to privacy in the age of social media.
The video, which involved Harrison Pawluk, 22, gifting a bouquet of flowers to a random woman sitting alone in a shopping centre, was widely praised as it racked up more than 64 million views to date.
However the woman featured in the clip didn't appreciate the unsolicited attention, hitting out at the contrived moment in the media and lamenting her depiction as a lonely, old woman.
Appearing on The Project on Sunday night, the Melbourne man said he was sorry for putting her in that position but said he wouldn't be persuaded to cease creating such videos for his 3.2 million followers on TikTok.
"Maree I apologise for what has happened and I would love to be able to owe you a coffee and to be able to get you a bouquet of flowers that are more to your taste," he said.
Despite criticism, Mr Pawluk said he was just trying to inspire people towards generosity.
"I know my true intentions and I know that if I can inspire even one per cent of the people that watch my content to go out there and do something good, I have done something that I believe is good for the world," he said.
Videos ostensibly showing random acts of kindness are a popular genre on the video sharing platform, but the public response from Maree highlights the problem of using unsuspecting strangers to gain social media clout, and ultimately revenue.
"These artificial things are not random acts of kindness," she told ABC radio last week after the video was picked up by the media.
The Aussie TikToker facing a media storm for posting a video of a stranger without her consent has finally spoken out exclusively to The Project, but Harrison Pawluk says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. #TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/YxzUN5XTJj
— The Project (@theprojecttv) July 17, 2022
"He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn't.
"At first it was a bit of a joke to me, and then I sort of felt dehumanised ... I suppose I am a bit offended really."
As thousands of comments initially flooded in, Maree expressed frustration about being portrayed as a "pathetic" old woman. But Mr Pawluk said he approaches a wide variety of people in his videos which often involve providing gifts or money to strangers.
"I’m not looking just for elderly ladies, I’ve given flowers to men as well and have also given flowers to younger women too. I’m not just specifically targeting one person," he said.
"The person that I look for in a video is just someone that I believe is going to appreciate the gesture."
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