It has been claimed on social media that the pandemic was planned by the Rockefeller Foundation, under the guise of something called ‘Operation Lockstep’. Claims circulating on WhatsApp say these plans were originally published in a book in 1989.
All the posts include a page of text titled: “Operation Lockstep: from the Rockefeller Playbook”.
It describes a scenario whereby a combination of “draconian” lockdown rules imposed in response to a mild illness, and exposure to “5G radiation” lead to lowered immunity.
The post appears to make several claims about the current pandemic, but many are things we have previously fact checked and found to be false. For example, evidence shows that Covid-19 is not the same as flu, Covid-19 is more dangerous than the flu, coronavirus tests do not give a large number of false positive results, we do have accurate numbers for how many people have died of Covid and 5G is not harmful.
It then says when people “re-emerge into society” they will become ill and this will be blamed on Covid-19. People will be offered a vaccine and a “weaponised” virus will be released if too many people refuse the vaccine, leading to war between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. There is nothing to suggest any of this will happen.
The Rockefeller Foundation is a private foundation based in America, founded by the wealthy Rockefeller family more than a century ago. Claims about Operation Lockstep have been previously debunked by American fact checking organisation Snopes, which reported that in 2010 the Rockefeller Foundation funded a scenario planning exercise called ‘Scenario for the Future of Technology and International Development’.
This looked at various different imagined scenarios and the role technology could theoretically play in them, including a global pandemic. The global pandemic scenario was named ‘Lock Step’ in this exercise.
The likes of Snopes and other Factchecker websites seem to dispute the idea.
However, the ‘Lock Step’ outlined in the Rockefeller Foundation’s work sufficient resemblance to the ‘Operation Lockstep’ text being circulated on social media, even though it doesn’t mention Covid-19 at all. It also does not talk about 5G, inflation of case numbers, flawed testing, weaponised viruses or a war caused by vaccines.
Instead, it imagines a pandemic caused by an influenza strain which originated in wild geese, emerging in 2012 and killing 8 million people in seven months, the majority of deaths being in “healthy young adults”. (In contrast, the Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have killed 3.38 million people in the 17 months since it was first detected in December 2019, with the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions most at risk).
Regardless of the details about geese and lockstep not mentioning Covid expressly, the imagined scenario bears a passing resemblance to the current situation, such as governments imposing restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.
However, the scenario also describes Africa and Southeast Asia being particularly affected by the imagined virus, whereas Covid-19 has more severely affected Europe, South America and the United States. Again it is a scenario which is meant to be a smokescreen for the real thing,
Another version of this claim being widely shared on WhatsApp says that the false ‘Operation Lockstep’ text comes from a book published in 1989 called ‘The New World Order’ by A. Ralph Epperson. This is a real book,
But here’s the link to the document where you can muse over it yourself
A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback
In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit.
Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain—originating from wild geese—was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults.
The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.
The pandemic blanketed the planet—though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols.
But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge.
The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders.
However, a few countries did fare better—China in particular.
The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery
China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure. During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets.
Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified.
In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems—from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty—leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.
At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty—and their privacy—to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability.
Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms:
biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.
Across the developing world, however, the
story was different—and much more variable.
Top-down authority took different forms
in different countries, hinging largely on
the capacity, caliber, and intentions of their
leaders. In countries with strong and thoughtful
leaders, citizens’ overall economic status
and quality of life increased. In India, for
example, air quality drastically improved after
2016, when the government outlawed high emitting vehicles.
In Ghana, the introduction
of ambitious government programs to improve
basic infrastructure and ensure the availability
of clean water for all her people led to a sharp
decline in water-borne diseases. But more
authoritarian leadership worked less well—and
in some cases tragically—in countries run by
irresponsible elites who used their increased
power to pursue their own interests at the
expense of their citizens.
There were other downsides, as the rise of
virulent nationalism created new hazards:
spectators at the 2018 World Cup, for example, wore bulletproof vests that sported a patch
of their national flag.
regulations stifled innovation, kept costs high,
and curbed adoption. In the developing world,
access to “approved” technologies increased
but beyond that remained limited: the locus
of technology innovation was largely in the
developed world, leaving many developing
countries on the receiving end of technologies
that others consider “best” for them. Some
governments found this patronizing and refused
to distribute computers and other technologies
that they scoffed at as “second hand.”
Meanwhile, developing countries with more
resources and better capacity began to innovate
internally to fill these gaps on their own.
Meanwhile, in the developed world, the presence
of so many top-down rules and norms greatly
inhibited entrepreneurial activity.
Scientists and innovators were often told by governments
what research lines to pursue and were guided
mostly toward projects that would make money
(e.g., market-driven product development) or
were “sure bets” (e.g., fundamental research),
leaving more risky or innovative research
areas largely untapped.
Well-off countries and
monopolistic companies with big research and
development budgets still made significant
advances, but the IP behind their breakthroughs
remained locked behind strict national or
corporate protection. Russia and India imposed
stringent domestic standards for supervising
and certifying encryption-related products and
their suppliers—a category that in reality meant
all IT innovations. The U.S. and EU struck back
with retaliatory national standards, throwing
a wrench in the development and diffusion of
Especially in the developing world, acting in
one’s national self-interest often meant seeking
practical alliances that fit with those interests—whether it was gaining access to
needed resources or banding together in order
to achieve economic growth. In South America
and Africa, regional and sub-regional alliances
became more structured. Kenya doubled its
trade with southern and eastern Africa, as new
partnerships grew within the continent.
China’s investment in Africa expanded as the bargain
of new jobs and infrastructure in exchange for
access to key minerals or food exports proved
agreeable to many governments. Cross-border
ties proliferated in the form of official security
aid. While the deployment of foreign security
teams was welcomed in some of the most dire
failed states, one-size-fits-all solutions yielded
few positive results.
By 2025, people seemed to be growing weary of so much top-down control and letting leaders
and authorities make choices for them.
Wherever national interests clashed with individual interests, there was conflict.
Sporadic pushback became increasingly organized and
coordinated, as disaffected youth and people
who had seen their status and opportunities slip
away—largely in developing countries—incited
civil unrest. In 2026, protestors in Nigeria
brought down the government, fed up with the
entrenched cronyism and corruption. Even those
who liked the greater stability and predictability
of this world began to grow uncomfortable and
constrained by so many tight rules and by the
strictness of national boundaries.
The feeling lingered that sooner or later, something would
inevitably upset the neat order that the world’s
governments had worked so hard to establish. •
Technology Under Lockstep
While there is no way of accurately predicting what the important technological
advancements will be in the future, the scenario narratives point to areas where
conditions may enable or accelerate the development of certain kinds of technologies.
Thus for each scenario we offer a sense of the context for technological innovation,
taking into consideration the pace, geography, and key creators.
We also suggest a few
technology trends and applications that could flourish in each scenario.
Technological innovation in “Lock Step” is largely driven by government and is
focused on issues of national security and health and safety.
Most technological improvements are created by and for developed countries, shaped by governments’
dual desire to control and to monitor their citizens.
In states with poor governance, large-scale projects that fail to progress abound.
Technology trends and applications we might see:
• Scanners using advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
technology become the norm at airports and other public areas to detect
abnormal behavior that may indicate “antisocial intent.”
• In the aftermath of pandemic scares, smarter packaging for food and beverages
is applied first by big companies and producers in a business-to-business
environment, and then adopted for individual products and consumers.
• New diagnostics are developed to detect communicable diseases. The
application of health screening also changes; screening becomes a prerequisite
for release from a hospital or prison, successfully slowing the spread of many
• Tele-presence technologies respond to the demand for less expensive, lower bandwidth, sophisticated communications systems for populations whose travel
• Driven by protectionism and national security concerns, nations create their
own independent, regionally defined IT networks, mimicking China’s firewalls.
Governments have varying degrees of success in policing internet traffic, but
these efforts nevertheless fracture the “World Wide” Web.