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Americans are fascinated by the stock market — and so-called meme stocks have captured a big part of that fascination.

Part internet in-joke and part get-rich-quick scheme, these are stocks of familiar-but-struggling companies that seem to catch small investors' attention and, as a result, defy the normal financial laws of gravity. While meme stocks are a minuscule part of the overall stock market, small investors — often trading on popular apps like Robinhood — have sometimes added tens of billions of dollars in value to such companies that suddenly caught their fancy.

While this activity has created some overnight millionaires, it's prompted big losses for some professional investors and small investors who bought at the wrong time, when the internet's fickle attention span was about to move on. It's also prompted plenty of questions from lawmakers and regulators.