What I Do & Why I Do It

Morgan presenting her paper, “First Amendment Metaphors: From ‘Marketplace’ to ‘Free Flow of Information,'” at AEJMC 2017.

Morgan N. Weiland is an attorney and scholar with expertise in the ethical implications of online discourse. She draws on legal doctrine, normative theories of communication, and the affordances and limits of digital media technologies to illuminate the contemporary structures and spaces that shape the conditions for the freedom of expression. Her work informs both academic and policy debates with the goal of improving democratic discourse.

What My Scholarship Is About

Morgan’s recent publications examine key structures affording for free expression, where structures include law, technology, and the interaction of the two. Her Stanford Law Review article, “Expanding the Periphery and Threatening the Core: The Ascendant Libertarian Speech Tradition,” excavates and critiques the theoretical and ideological underpinnings of contemporary expressive jurisprudence, teasing out how the ever-expanding interpretation and application of First Amendment doctrine undermines its core theoretical justifications.

Morgan’s current research focuses on spaces for free expression. Her dissertation will examine the public responsibilities of private platforms as crucial spaces for contemporary discourse.

What My Policy Work Is About

Her policy work focuses on how the intersection of law and technology can help foster — or undermine — open discourse. Morgan is deeply involved in policy advocacy of network neutrality, which is a key governing approach to online expression. She has worked with Professor Barbara van Schewick to secure a legal victory establishing strong network neutrality regulations in the U.S. In January 2015, they published a critique of the Republican’s network neutrality bill in the Stanford Law Review Online, building on prior collaborations about network neutrality.

Morgan also has written extensively about the federal shield debate. She has spoken about the bill and its potential impact on journalism at AEJMC’s 2014 conference. Free Press, in a report titled “Acts of Journalism: Defining Press Freedom in the Digital Age,” notes that “[j]ournalism and First Amendment scholar Morgan Weiland has argued that lawmakers should simply drop the definition of ‘covered persons’ in both the House and Senate bills and rely instead on the House definition of journalism.” She advanced these arguments while working as a legal intern at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2013, where she critiqued and helped to change the legislation. Her work on congressional shield legislation is also featured in the Stanford Lawyer. Additionally, she has written in Forbes with Jennifer Granick about the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers and whistleblowers.

Why I Do What I Do

Her passion for ensuring open structures and spaces for the freedom of expression is rooted in her experiences with the press as an undergraduate student at Carleton College, where she graduated with honors in 2006. She researched biased media coverage of the Iraq War for her honors thesis, worked as News Director for her college radio station, and witnessed the infamous “Dean Scream” — an event that was created by the press and, when put in spatial and aural context, did not unfold as it has been reported. (tl;dr Dean didn’t scream; he was talking over a raucous crowd of volunteers.) These experiences revealed the power of private actors, like journalists, to shape the parameters of citizens’ discourse; consider that Dean dropped out of the race weeks later. And these experiences informed her decision to become a professional journalist and media critic, which she did between undergrad and grad school. From 2006-08, she covered health care policy on Capitol Hill, including for Bloomberg/BNA, and from 2008-10 she was a media critic with the progressive non-profit Media Matters for America.

Morgan (left) at the Supreme Court with members of SLS’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic in 2015.

Morgan graduated from Stanford Law School in 2015. At SLS, she worked in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and was an Articles Editor on the Stanford Law Review. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in the Departement of Communication, a Graduate Fellow with Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society, and a Fellow at the Internet Law & Policy Foundry.