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Department of Media and Communication Center for Communication Research

Dr Xiaofan LIU 劉肖凡

BSc, PhD (HK PolyU)

Assistant Professor

Staff Photo

Contact Information

Office: M5083
Phone: +(852) 3442 8730
Fax: +(852) 3442 0228
Email: xf.liu@cityu.edu.hk
Personal CV: Personal CV
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Academic Profile

CityU Scholar
Google Scholar

Research Interests

  • Computational Social Sciences
  • Cryptocurrency and Dark Web
My research group studies human behaviors in web3 and the dark web with computational social science methods. Post-doc and data scientist/engineer (with an opportunity of pursuing PhD) positions are available.

I come from an interdisciplinary background: a Bachelor of Science degree in internet and multimedia technologies and a Ph.D. degree in network science, both from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Before joining CityU, I was an associate professor at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Southeast University, China.

I am currently affiliated with Prof. Jonathan Zhu's Web Mining Laboratory and Prof. Ron Chen's Centre for Complexity and Complex Networks. I'm also involved in an InnoHK R&D initiative, the Laboratory for AI-Powered Financial Technologies.

Call for paper

Frontiers of Physics is calling a second round of papers for the Research Topic "Cryptocurrency Transaction Analysis from a Network Perspective."

  • The first round of papers have attracted much attention from both academia and the public.
  • Deadline for manuscript submission is 9 July 2023.
  • Please drop your abstract on or before 11 March 2023 for pre-registration.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain

Smartphone user behaviors

  • Modern humans spend about four hours per day on their smartphones. During lockdowns? The time can increase by up to another two hours. Our analyses of more than five million Chinese smartphone users affected by lockdowns in 2021 (filtered out from several hundred million users) show that the increased hours are prioritized according to the psychological need pyramid: physiological (e.g., food), entertainment, and social needs first, and self-actualization only later. On the contrary, both online and offline commercial activities are suppressed due to halted logistics. The suppressed desire for large merchandise (e.g., cars) purchasing is especially worrisome for the economy.
  • Shanghai has endured an exceptionally long lockdown in the first half of 2022. Many humanitarian disasters during this time and their potential psychological hazards have been predicted by our data (or should we say lived through by people from other cities). We hope that whoever reads our study can help disseminate the message to policymakers and the public, hoping to avoid repeating yesterday anymore.
  • Pre-print available at
  • Liu, X. F., Wang, Z., Xu, X.-K., Wu, Y., Zhao, Z., Deng, H., Wang, P., Chao, N., & Huang, Y.-H. (2022) The Shock, the Coping, the Resilience: How Smartphone Application Use Reveals Covid-19 Lockdown Effects on Human Behaviour (April 22, 2022). Available at SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4104602
  • Related studies
  • Zhu, J. J. H., Chen, H., Peng, T. Q., Liu, X. F., & Dai, H. (2018). How to measure sessions of mobile phone use? Quantification, evaluation, and applications. Mobile Media & Communication, 6(2), 215-232. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157917748351

The Dark Web

  • The dark web are web services running on the darknet, which is a set of computer servers connected by and can only be accessed from encrypted networks. A common impression associated with the dark web is drug trading. But there is much more going on in that corner of the Internet. The dark web can also be considered an anonymous communication channel from the perspective of communication theory, underpinning human communication in an extremely covert environment.
  • Our lab is curating an archive for dark websites. Until September 2022, we identified more than five million URLs from over 50 thousand dark web domains. The total volume of data downloaded exceeded 5 TB.
  • Selected papers (* corresponding author)
  • Chen, Z., Jardine, E., Liu, X. F.*, & Zhu, J. J. H. (2022). Seeking Anonymity on the Internet: The Knowledge Accumulation Process and Global Usage of the Tor Network. New Media & Society, https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448211072201.
  • Pu, J. Y., & Liu, X. F.* (2022). To Defend Rights Online: The Roles of Internet Self-efficacy and Privacy Concern in Online Rights-defending Participation. The virtual 72st Annual International Communication Association Conference (ICA2022), May 2022.
  • Chen Z. & Liu X. F.* (2021). Why Do Users Leave Anonymous Online Communities? An Exploratory Study of the Silk Road Forum on the Dark Web. The virtual 71st Annual International Communication Association Conference (ICA2021), 27-31 May 2021.

Data curation, analysis, and modeling for COVID-19

  • Teamed with Prof. XU Xiao-Ke (Dalian Minzu University) and Prof. WU Ye (Beijing Normal University), we hand-coded daily COVID-19 case reports from Chinese local health commissions and extracted useful epidemiological information. We released the dataset on GitHub and figshare. The dataset has supported numerous publications in top-tier venues, including Science, Clinical Infectious Disease, and Emerging Infectious Disease. The Paper (澎湃) press also made a fabulous data visualization based on our data and won a major China data journalism award in 2021.
  • Read our blog post for the story behind this massive dataset (and on the unreadiness of artificial intelligence in fighting COVID-19, as least in its early stages).
  • Selected papers (* corresponding author, + equally contributed)
  • Wang, Z.+, Liu, X. F.+, Du, Z., Wang, L., Wu, Y., Holme, P., ... & Sun, Y. (2022) Epidemiologic Information Discovery from Open-Access COVID-19 Case Reports Via Pretrained Language Model. Zoie SY and Xu, Xiao-Ke and Sun, Yuanyuan, Epidemiologic Information Discovery from Open-Access COVID-19 Case Reports Via Pretrained Language Model. iScience, available online, 105079. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.105079
  • Liu, X. F., Xu, X. K., & Wu, Y. (2021). Mobility, exposure, and epidemiological timelines of COVID-19 infections in China outside Hubei province. Scientific Data, 8, 54. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-021-00844-8
  • Xu, X-K.+, Liu, X. F.+, Wu, Y.+, Ali, S. T.+, Du, Z.+, Bosetti, P., Lau, E. H. Y., Cowling, B. J., & Wang, L.* (2020). Reconstruction of Transmission Pairs for novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in mainland China: Estimation of Super-spreading Events, Serial Interval, and Hazard of Infection. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 71(12), 3163-3167. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa790
  • 刘肖凡, 吴晔, & 许小可 (2020). 媒体在流行病暴发事件中的干预作用: 基于传染病模型理论和新型冠状病毒疫情案例的分析. 全球传媒学刊, 7(1), 169-185. https://doi.org/10.16602/j.gmj.20200011
  • 数字的游戏:辣评预测2020新型冠状病毒nCov传播规模的几项研究,2020年1月31日.
  • We acknowledge the funding support from
  • The International COVID-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) and the Grand Challenges (GC) initiative in their GC ICODA COVID-19 Data Science pilot initiative.
  • Follow the progress of this project on The Global Health Network.

Other Publications and Patents


  • 刘肖凡, & 谢智刚. (2015). 知诸网: 网络科学及其在艺术、金融和社会学中的应用. 科学出版社, 北京.

Other Notable Articles

  • Sun, W. J., Liu, X. F.*, & Shen, F. (2021). Learning Dynamic User Interactions for Online Forum Commenting Prediction. 2021 IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM), 7-10 Dec. 2021. DOI: 10.1109/ICDM51629.2021.00168
  • Liu, X. F., Chen, H.-J., & Sun, W.-J. (2021). Adaptive topological coevolution of interdependent networks: Scientific collaboration-citation networks as an example. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 564, 125518. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physa.2020.125518
  • Liu, X. F., Liu, Y.-L., Lu, X.-H., Wang, Q.-X., & Wang, T.-X. (2016). The anatomy of the global football player transfer network: Club functionalities versus network properties. PLoS ONE, 11(6), e0156504. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156504
  • Liu, X. F., & Tse, C. K. (2012). A complex network perspective of world stock markets: synchronization and volatility. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, 22(06), 1250142. https://doi.org/10.1142/S0218127412501428
  • Liu, X. F., Tse, C. K., & Small, M. (2010). Complex network structure of musical compositions: Algorithmic generation of appealing music. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 389(1), 126-132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physa.2009.08.035
  • * corresponding author

Full Publication List


  • 刘肖凡、李正龙,“群组间消息传播路径挖掘方法与系统”,中国发明,专利号 ZL 2017 1 01154048.7
  • 刘肖凡、李正龙,“一种基于在线社交平台群聊数据对群成员进行关联的系统及方法”,中国发明,专利号 ZL 2016 1 0482435.3
  • 庆光蔚、王会方、丁树庆、冯月贵、刘肖凡、高逸夫、胡静波、冯文龙、韩郡业、张军、米涌、王建华、梁秉、方铭杰,“一种基于最小加权时间距离的电梯救援站点最优选址方法”,中国发明,专利号 ZL 2017 1 0236990.2 (国家市场监管总局2020年度市场监管科研成果二等奖
  • 蔡成委、韦志群、刘肖凡,“一种基于用户画像动态轨迹模型的广告推荐方法及系统”,中国发明,公开号 CN108665083A,公开日2018年10月16日。