U.S.-based social networks have been credited with helping protesters in many countries topple oppressive regimes, or at least try. These "Facebook Revolutions" and "Twitter Revolutions" mostly took place three or four years ago, however — in tech time, they're ancient history. Governments have learned a lot from the Arab Spring and other such protests, and social networks have turned into mature companies that must, by definition, maintain good relations with the authorities.

Facebook proved it last Saturday by blocking an announcement inviting Muscovites to attend a January rally in support of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who is about to be sentenced to a long prison term on trumped-up charges.

Ever since Navalny emerged as the most credible leader of Moscow's failed "Snow Revolution" of 2011 and 2012, he has been hounded by Russia's law enforcement agencies. He is already serving a suspended sentence for allegedly stealing lumber from a state enterprise — an invented crime from which Navalny, even his prosecutors acknowledge, did not personally profit. Now, he and his brother, who works for the Russian postal service, are being accused of setting up a logistics company that allegedly overcharged the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher for its services. The French firm has denied incurring any losses from the Navalny's activities, but the trial went ahead, and on Dec. 19, the prosecutor asked for a 10-year sentence for Alexei Navalny.